AUGUSTA, GA. – Just in time for the school year, the GRU Literacy Center announced that it will open two new locations to serve the community. On Sept. 8, the Augusta-Richmond County Library on Telfair Street and Paine College will both open satellite locations for the GRU College of Education to address illiteracy rates in the CSRA.
“We have simply outgrown our current location,” said Dr. Paulette Harris, founder and director of the GRU Literacy Center. Harris is the Cree-Walker Endowed Professor of Education for the GRU College of Education.
The current facility only allows them to reach about 1,000 people a month, but Georgia’s Task Force on Adult Literacy estimates that one out of three adult Georgians is functionally illiterate. In the Augusta area alone, there are more than 65,000 adults whose basic educational levels are less than those of the average eighth grader. And so Augusta-Richmond County Public Library System and Paine College have offered space in partnership with the center, with Paine College focusing on mathematics literacy, also known as numeracy.
“Literacy is the foundation for civilization,” said Russell Liner, assistant director for public services for the Augusta-Richmond County Public Library System. “Throughout history, the ability to read was power. In the Middle Ages, the nobility kept education from the masses to protect their power. And in American history, we disenfranchised certain groups because we were afraid they’d use their knowledge against us. The purpose of the library system is to bring access to knowledge to the public. So offering facilities for the GRU Literacy Center just dovetails with our larger mission.”
Paine College’s Department of Mathematics, Sciences and Technology will foster mathematics literacy with volunteers from students in their upper-level classes and faculty and alumni. The volunteers will help ensure that students have a basic competency in algebra and in the standards set in local school systems and in the colleges.
“Mathematics is as crucial to success in life as reading,” said Dr. Raul Peters, chair of the department. “Early math mastery is predictive of success in high school and college and also impacts adult lives. Career-wise, algebra is used by a wide range of professionals, from electricians to computer scientists to architects. But even in our personal lives, we use math – from calculating the best price on a sale item to figuring out an appropriate tip at a restaurant to higher-level life choices like understanding compounding interest or financing the purchase of a house.”
Both of the satellite center openings are part of the center’s celebration of International Literacy Day, organized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which highlights the importance of literacy to individuals, communities and societies.
The importance of literacy is that it impacts everything from poverty and income level to incarceration rates. Nearly two-thirds of illiterate adults are employed, but most struggle to find stable employment at a family-sustaining wage, according to the most recent data from the Programme for International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC). A low ability to read leads to limited opportunities for employment or income generation, higher chances of poor health, propensity toward crime and dependence on social welfare. For example, 70 percent of prison inmates cannot read.
Research makes it clear that we must do everything in our power to ensure that children do not fall behind in their reading skills,” Harris said. “With the help of our volunteers, most of whom are certified teachers, we are privileged to work on everything from born-to-read to lifelong literacy.”
All students start by getting evaluated so they can get a personalized learning experience. The center addresses learning differences like dyslexia and other problems that may not have been fully addressed in a student’s educational experience. And the staff works hard to provide a safe space for older adults, including later hours and providing additional options.
“And we will continue to work with them as long as they would like to continue to grow,” she said.
The GRU Literacy Center is located at 1401 Magnolia Dr., Augusta. Call 706-737-1625, or visit gru.edu/colleges/education/lcenter.