Linda Hull reminds Rotary Club of Los Alamos members of the importance of their work in support of literacy. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
BY MAIRE O’NEILL
The Rotary Club of Los Alamos is recognizing Literacy Month during March. Linda Hull gave club members some statistics Tuesday during their regular meeting to remind them what Rotary’s support of basic education, one of Rotary’s focus areas, is so important.
Hull noted that New Mexico ranks 50th in education on most lists, partly due to the fact that 20 percent of adult residents have literacy skills at Level 1, the lowest level on a scale of 1 to 5. She said the 20 percent can find simple information in a sports article; they have math skills to total a bank deposit, but they are challenged beyond that.
“Forty-six percent of the population can locate an intersection on a map or calculate postage but cannot qualify for two-thirds of all available jobs today in our state. New Mexico has just under two million people; 46 percent are considered functionally illiterate. It is estimated that 900,000 adults are in need of literacy services in the state and statewide, depending on ages between 21 and 25, almost 25 percent of young adults lack a high school diploma or its equivalent,” she said.
Hull also noted that in the United States, more than 36 million adults cannot read, write or do basic math above a third grade level.
“Low literacy skill in adults can be connected to almost every social-economic issue in the U.S. Forty-three percent of adults with the lowest literacy rates in the U.S. live in poverty. Children whose parents have low literacy levels have a 72 percent chance of being at the lowest reading levels themselves. And one in six American teenagers – more than 1.2 million – drop out of high school every year,” she said.
Hull said the local club applies for community grants each year to help pay for literacy programs. Through such grants, the club has been able to assist in various local projects such as paying the exam fees for high school equivalency tests for qualified students at UNM-LA, a collaborative developed 10 years ago through Rotarian Gil Butler. She said Rotarians such as Linda Anderson and Tony Chan have tutored at UNM-LA. The local club has also partnered on a Rotary global grant with a school in Haiti. It has also given “Books for Babies” to Los Alamos Medical Center.
“When we are asked to support literacy programs, let’s remember our own life-changing opportunities in education,” Hull concluded.