Illiteracy remains a big problem in county

With about 5,000 people in Lycoming County never completing the ninth grade, combating illiteracy remains an important issue in the area.

Linda Herr, director of the Learning Center, spoke to the Rotary Club Tuesday at the Genetti Hotel about how the illteracy problem affects daily life and how the center is trying to help.

Illiteracy, Herr said, impacts more aspects of an individual’s life than just their ability to read a book. An adult is unable to fill out a job application, read a label on a prescription bottle or any other number of tasks.

“Imagine that you can’t read any of them,” she said to the group.

And although Herr stated that adult illiteracy is “invisible” to most, she also noted: “They’re not hiding.”

Those unable to read visit the doctor’s office more frequently because they’re five times more likely to misinterpret prescription directions.

Herr also said illiterate people are more likely to buy the smaller, cheaper version of cereal although a bigger box may be a better deal – and buy soup that displays a picture of the flavor on it. They also are the individuals who take longer in the check-out line as they struggle to figure out exactly how much money to give to the cashier.

And although it may be “embarrassing,” for those individuals, Herr said the Learning Center, a service of the county Library System, is available to help.

“It really has to take courage for an adult to come forward and ask for help,” she said.

The center offers one-on-one tutoring and GED classes. And through these services, individuals also receive education in job training and look at how the courses can help them secure employment.

Herr said learning is not the goal, being a productive citizen is.

“Getting a GED is not the end all, be all,” she said.

Learning to read is an important skill as it “empowers” people throughout their lives, she said.

It is not anyone in particular’s responsibility for an individual being illiterate, Herr said, but everyone’s.

“We all own it,” Herr said.