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Literacy Council of Kingsport has been changing lives for more than 30 years

Holly Viers • May 14, 2018 at 11:16 AM

KINGSPORT — For more than three decades, the Literacy Council of Kingsport has been helping adults and qualified children achieve their goals and realize their full potential.

Whether it’s through adult basic literacy training or the English Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program, many people in the city and the surrounding region have been impacted by the council’s free services, which are made possible by volunteers, grants and donations.

By the numbers

Dawn Blake, director of programs for the Literacy Council of Kingsport, said literacy programs are in high demand across the country. In the U.S., 36 million adults over age 16 cannot read above a third grade reading level, according to data provided by the Literacy Council.

In Tennessee, 12 percent of adults over age 16 lack basic prose literacy skills, and in Sullivan County alone, 15,400 adults have less than adequate literacy skills.

Meeting the need

In 2017, volunteers for the Literacy Council of Kingsport provided 7,790 hours of service, which is equivalent to $188,050 of paid labor.

One hundred percent of students improved their reading skills, and students succeeded in receiving job promotions, increasing involvement in their child’s education, enrolling in college and volunteering in the community.

As stated in the organization’s end-of-year report for 2017, the Literacy Council served 116 active students last year, 16 of which graduated from the program by meeting their individual goals.

“The length of a student’s time just depends,” Blake said. “Every student’s different, and … the biggest step is stepping through the door. It’s really difficult to say to another adult, ‘I don’t know how to do something that most adults know how to do.’ ”

Individualized programs

The Literacy Council offers a number of free programs, each of which is customized to meet the needs of each individual student. Though the council focuses on adults, it also works with some children in local elementary schools and youth-serving agencies who are not reading on grade level.

Two main programs are offered for adults: the adult basic literacy program, which uses a phonics-based curriculum to improve basic reading and writing skills, and the ESOL program, in which students learn to speak, understand, read and write English through one-on-one tutoring.

The council also offers a computer technology program, conversation classes and a citizenship class, which prepares students for the U.S. citizenship test.

How you can help

Blake said the Literacy Council is always in need of volunteers to tutor students or work in the office. To sign up for the next volunteer training, which will be held in August, call the Literacy Council at (423) 392-4643.

The council is also preparing for its upcoming fundraiser in partnership with Friends of Allandale. The event will feature bestselling author and Kingsport native Kimberly Belle. Business sponsorships are available now. For more information, call Executive Director Colleen Gaskill at the number listed above.

The Literacy Council is partially funded by the United Way of Greater Kingsport.

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