By Alicia Harris, contributing writer
Cruise down Main Street around 10 a.m. on any given weekday, and you will see a line leading up to the doors of the hottest spot on the block: your local Main Library. Lined up for what? For access. For fair, equal access to technology, educational programming, and workforce skills training programs necessary for upward social mobility and participation in modern society.
Make your way to the bottom floor of the library, and you will find another line comprised of adults signing in to adult literacy and adult basic education classes offered by Learn to Read Jacksonville and the Center for Adult Learning.
Learn to Read (LTR) Jacksonville is a 501(c)3 nonprofit focused on helping adults in Jacksonville achieve their reading-related goals, such as getting a GED, writing a resume, registering to vote or helping school-aged children complete their homework. LTR serves adult learners with reading skills anywhere between nonexistent to ninth-grade level. In conjunction with the Jacksonville Public Library’s Center for Adult Learning and other Downtown-area nonprofits, such as the Clara White Mission and Community Connections, LTR seeks to provide an easily accessible hub for free education and training in the urban core, while carrying out our mission of increasing literacy awareness and improving adult literacy in Duval County through a volunteer-based program.
Why do we do it?
We do it for students like Jimmie, pictured with his tutor, Lynda. Jimmie wants to be able to read and follow directions on recipes, enabling him to cook healthy food for himself and his loved ones. Jimmie’s ability to understand the labels on food and comprehend healthy eating habits are critical in implementing preventative measures aimed at keeping him out of the doctor’s office or emergency room. Every day, Jacksonville adults in poor health incur emergency medical expenses over issues that could have been avoided if they were literate enough to read a prescription label on a bottle or plan out a meal schedule as a diabetic. These expenses financially drain individuals, their families and, when they cannot pay their own medical bills (statistically speaking, the lower your literacy skills, the lower your income), the local healthcare economy.
We also do it for students like Sandra, who was referred to Learn to Read after scoring too low on the entrance exam for FSCJ’s Downtown Campus GED program. Sandra raised herself since she was 10 years old, a time in her life when she wanted to go to school but didn’t have school shoes or money for lunch. She was out of school for 28 years by the time she walked through our front door. After completing remedial reading classes, Sandra was able to read, comprehend and pass the CNA licensing exam, get a job at Memorial Hospital and pass the GED. Sandra is now living financially fit in Jacksonville, working toward her next goal of giving back to the community through work as a registered nurse.
We do it for students like Martin, who, with the help of his tutor Sanjana, was able to navigate and complete the application process for buying a car. When we asked Martin what he planned to do with his new ride, he told us he was on his way to drop off applications at local grocery stores in the hopes of securing a better paying job. Later, he said we could find him at Mavericks at The Jacksonville Landing, his favorite place to have fun and keep in shape through line-dancing. As a resident of Duval County’s north side, Martin was excited about the expanded access to other sides of town that stable transportation would afford him.
We also do it because last year alone we had nearly 500 Jacksonville adults walk through our doors and say, “I can’t read. Can you help me?”
With the help of hundreds of volunteers in the community, the support of other community-focused organizations and a staff fiercely dedicated to the students we serve, we will continue to provide free remedial reading instruction to all those who seek it at the Main Library.
For more information on Learn to Read Jacksonville, visit learntoreadjax.org. The Center for Adult Learning is available weekdays to help students and adults. Be sure to check out the Jacksonville Main Library for more information on hours and types of services offered.