OKLAHOMA CITY – Three local organizations working to combat illiteracy in the state were recently awarded over $24,000 in Literacy Grants from the Oklahoma Department of Libraries (ODL). Sen. Ron Sharp said the grants will help in significantly improving the lives of local citizens.
“We have some incredible local organizations and volunteers who are helping give the gift of literacy. In today’s world, there is no greater gift as citizens cannot get a job or understand basic health information needed to make appropriate health decisions without being able to read,” said Sharp, R-Shawnee. “These grants will help these organizations be able to assist these individuals with overcoming this barrier to improve not just their own quality of life but that of their families.”
Opportunities Industrialization Center Volunteer Services in Oklahoma County will be receiving a $9,500 grant. The organization provides classroom aides, tutoring and clerical aids in administrative offices to help local adults.
Literacy Link is located in the Midwest City library and was started in 1986. Volunteers teach reading and writing to locals 18 years of age or older. The organization received a $9,500 grant.
The Pottawatomie County Literacy Program provides a number of literacy services to local adults. The program will be awarded a $5,310 grant.
The grants will be used to enhance basic literacy services to functionally illiterate adults in the area. Information released from the American Institutes for Research indicates that 43 percent of Oklahoma adults need to improve their prose literacy skills in order to effectively search, comprehend and use information from the written word. The research also showed that 12 percent of Oklahoma adults function at a below basic prose level, and 31 percent have only the most basic prose literacy skills.
According to the Oklahoma Literacy Resource Office, 18 percent of Oklahomans 18 to 24 years of age are not high school graduates and nine percent of Oklahomans age 25 or older don’t have a high school diploma. Comparatively, the same percentage of Oklahoma County and
Pottawatomie County residents 18 to 24 years old are not high school graduates. However, eight percent of Oklahoma County citizens and ten percent of Pottawatomie County residents over the age of 25 don’t have a high school diploma.
Illiteracy is not only a barrier to employment but can also be a health risk. The National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL) measured the health literacy of Oklahoma adults. They estimate that 26 percent do not understand when their next health appointment is scheduled. Forty-two percent do not understand instructions to “take medication on an empty stomach”. An estimated 78 percent misinterpret warnings on prescription labels. Eighty-six percent cannot understand the rights and responsibilities section of a Medicaid application.
“Illiteracy in our state is an issue that affects all Oklahomans as it impacts our economy,” said Sharp. “When people learn to read then they’re able to get jobs, which allows them to buy homes and cars. They spend more money, which increases local and state tax revenue benefitting the state overall. The sooner we end illiteracy in our state, the better not only for these individuals but for our economy.”
Each year, the legislature provides ODL with funds for the Literacy Grants.