Understanding the READ program

Kathaleen Cole (left), director of the Literacy Council, spoke to the Malvern Area Kiwanis Club about the READ program on Thursday, Oct. 3. Also pictured is Kiwanian Sharon Walters.
Josh Waddles, Special to the MDR
Staff Writer

Kathaleen Cole, director of the Literacy Council, spoke to the Malvern Area Kiwanis Club on Thursday, Oct. 3 about the READ program, which teaches adults to read. Cole said she’s served as director since March and noticed there was a need for literacy.
The stats put her into shock when she first saw them, said Cole. Globally, there are 774 million people who cannot read. Sixty seven percent of those are women, many from nations which repress women’s education.  She said 42 million adults in the United States cannot read. Twenty one percent of Americans read below an eighth grade level and nineteen percent of college graduates are below the reading level for their ages. Seventy percent of prison inmates cannot read above a fourth grade level, said Cole. She said illiteracy and incarceration are so correlated that officials check the fourth grade illiteracy rates of an area to determine future need for prison space.
One in four elementary children cannot read, said Cole, and these children often act out. When they cannot read, they find other things to put their talents in. And in order to avoid being assigned reading, students will often intentionally get in trouble so they have to stand in the hallway rather than do the reading assignments and this pattern continues through K-12. With few opportunities available that do not require some reading, these children may become interested in illegal activities, such as drugs or theft.
Cole said incarcerating a juvenile costs $25,000 in tax funds a year. She said she knows of several ways that money could be better spent, and she doesn’t want to spend it incarcerating a juvenile when she knows that a juvenile could have been helped.


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