Read All About It: local nonprofit combats adult illiteracy in Lubbock County
For the month of October, our reporter Samantha Larned will feature new stories each week highlighting books, authors, and literacy in Lubbock with our series, "Read All About It." Stay tuned to 89.1 FM, and radio.kttz.org for more.
In its 2018 report, the Texas Workforce Investment Council found that from 2012 to 2016, over 4.8 million Texans over the age of 18 were eligible for adult education services. In the South Plains, that number was more than 69,000 and nearly 66,000 of those individuals did not have a high school diploma or a GED.
Literacy Lubbock is a local nonprofit dedicated to adult education in the greater Lubbock area. The organization’s program and volunteer coordinator Melinda Gonzales described the literacy rate in Texas as part of the “profound educational crisis plaguing our state and city.”
Lubbock County has a 13% illiteracy rate, according to Gonzales, which means about 1 in 8 people in the county are reading at a third grade level or below. Lubbock County’s illiteracy rate is on par with Texas, according to the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies’ skill map.
Literacy Lubbock has programs for adults over 18 to earn GED credentials and develop skills in English as a second language, literacy, writing and math.
The GED program has about 400 students and the English as a second language program, or ESL, has about 150.
“We have people that come from all different countries, different places,” Gonzales said. “It’s an awesome program. You get to learn about their different cultures.”
Classes range from introduction to conversational. And many ESL students are learning English in hopes of attending Texas Tech University, Gonzales explained.
Literacy Lubbock has partnerships across the city, county and surrounding communities. As program coordinator, Gonzales does many outreach events.
In addition to these community events and the organization’s website, Gonzales said many hear about the classes by word of mouth, from friends and neighbors.
All of the classes offered by Literacy Lubbock are free; the only things students have to pay for are books, but Gonzales said barriers like childcare, transportation and work schedules still keep people from attending.
Classes are on a set schedule across multiple locations including the Mahon Library, the Dream Center, Hodges Community Center, Catholic Charities, and Buckner Family Hope Center. But for those who can’t make it, accommodations are made based on their needs, such as online alternatives or one-on-one meetings.
Literacy Lubbock is also hoping to expand to catch as many people as possible. And according to Gonzales, the work is never finished.
“I’m alway busy. People call me, email me, constantly, day and night,” Gonzales said. “I just want to reach the whole community. And I know it’s hard, but that’s what I want to do.”
Literacy Lubbock is always looking for volunteers and accepting donations, which go toward transportation, books, tests and anything else for which students might need to pay.
Another way Literacy Lubbock is raising money is the Lubbock Book Festival: an annual event focused on “Promoting Storytelling on the South Plains.”
This year’s book fest will be Nov. 3 and 4. Tickets are available on the festival’s website: $5 each day or $10 for both.
The event serves as exposure for Literacy Lubbock and for local authors, who will be set up at stalls selling and signing books and meeting fans.
Next week, KTTZ will hear from two of Lubbock Book Festival’s attending authors, Linda Broday and Kim Hunt Harris, and take a closer look at reading and writing communities in Lubbock.