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Literacy opens doors to freedom

July 29, 2015
Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

To the editor:

Literacy Council Gulf Coast, Inc. has been teaching students and families in southwest Florida for over 25 years.

We believe that literacy is the key that unlocks an individual's ability to learn. Learning is important to protect and preserve our democratic republic and improve the community's quality of life.

The Moms & Tots program was established in 2004 with four mothers and their pre-school aged children. Now, this valuable program has grown to teach and empower 1,160 moms and children during the 2014-2015 school year.

In 2014, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation prioritized literacy through a series of special first person participatory videos showing how people from all walks of life struggle with limited English literacy proficiency.

In early 2015, we participated in a pilot program funded by the Barbara Bush Foundation that focused on PACT learning, or Parent And Child Together. During this partnership we enhanced our model Carol DeJoy Moms and Tots family literacy program, naming the pilot project "Moms & Tots: Talk to Me" to reflect the closeness that a mother has with her children in a highly collaborative and deeply personal learning atmosphere.

We are proud of the support and attention that literacy has received over the past couple of years. It is reflected in the Council's organizational growth and our ability to serve more and more moms, kids, families, and hard-working adults.

But we can't rest on our laurels just yet.

According to a September 2014 Report from the Brookings Institute, "Nearly 1 in 10 working age U.S. adults-19.2 million persons aged 16-64-is considered LEP."

LEP stands for Limited English Proficient. This is a major problem for the SWFL workforce and local employers.

"The size of the working-age LEP population is more than 2.5 times what it was in 1980, and the LEP share of the U.S. working-age population has almost doubled from 4.8 in 1980 to 9.3 percent in 2012."

This hits home with the fact that "Cape Coral more than doubled its working-age LEP between 2000-2012."

Our economy is stifled without an emphasis on improving our collective literacy education proficiency, but the business sector isn't the only one who suffers. Proliteracy estimates that the economic cost of low adult literacy is $230 billion annually.

We estimate that between 13-20 percent of Lee County residents of total county population of over 670,000 speak a language other than English within their homes.

While Literacy Council Gulf Coast is the largest nonprofit literacy agency in the United States, we know that we are not on our own in this fight to fulfill our mission to help our friends and neighbors "acquire the English literacy skills and education necessary to improve their quality of life and enhance the entire community."

We can't do it alone.

Together, we can lead to make southwest Florida a more productive workforce and stronger, healthier community. Let's unlock the door to learning in Southwest Florida together.

Susan Acuna

President & CEO

Literacy Council Gulf Coast, Inc.

 
 

 

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