Literacy Council works to help adults in Shelby County

Something many probably take for granted is the ability to read.

Yet, 92,000 Alabamians are functionally illiterate. Even in Shelby County, with the state's lowest unemployment, 8,400 adults can not read.

"A lot of them have found ways to hide it, we have people who come into our program,their spouse doesn't even know they can't read," Beth Wilder, executive director of the Literacy Council of Central Alabama says.

Wilder admits the number of functioning illiterate adults is staggering. 15% of adults in Alabama are 'functionally illiterate'.

"That means you cannot read or write well enough to function in society, that generally means reading or writing below a sixth grade level," Wilder explains.Wilder says quality of life for illiterate men and women is even more difficult now than a generation ago. "You really cannot function like you could have 40 to 50 years ago," says Wilder. "You could of gotten a higher paying job with a plant or a mill, you can't do that now. The way technology has advanced, if you can't read, those jobs are not available to you." The Literacy Council of Central Alabama works with adults in Bibb, Jefferson, Shelby, St. Claire and Walker counties.

The newest chapter begins this week in Shelby County.

Would it surprise you to learn that the county with the lowest unemployment has 7% illiteracy?"I think people tend to overlook Shelby County because they do have so many great things going on, those people tend to be forgotten," Wilder says. "Because they don't make up the vast majority of the population there."

More than 3,885 people in Shelby County have not completed the 9th grade. More than 13,404 do not have a high school diploma.Dr. Elaine Hughes, a former English professor at the University of Montevallo helped form the Shelby County literacy chapter.

It is as much to help young children as their parents. "As the mother's level of education increases, her children's success in school increases," says Hughes. "So it's not just to deal with these adults. It is a problem for our society, it's something we need to address and I think we in Shelby County are very capable of doing."

To reach out and help the 8,400 illiterate adults in Shelby County, the Literacy Council of Central Alabama is offering adult literacy programs at the North Shelby Library on Highway 119 and at Parnell Memorial Library in Montevallo.

Right now, eight tutors have signed up for training sessions that start September 22 and more are needed.

If you're interested in becoming a tutor or taking part in the literacy program, you can contact the Literacy Council of Central Alabama at (205)-326-1925.

Or you can visit the website here.