Literacy Council sees participation booming

By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer

Attendance at a local literacy center spiked in the last year as a result of an aggressive marketing campaign, according to officials.

From fiscal year 2004-2005 to fiscal year 2005-2006, student enrollment at the Curry County Literacy Council tripled, from 11 to 33, according to Council Program Director Miranda Gerberding. Volunteer hours at the center sprang from 133 to 757, Gerberding said.

English is a second language for about half of all new students at the Council, Gerberding said.

“A lot of (the increase) has to do with awareness we have been trying to put out into the community,” Gerberding said.

Literacy services in Curry County lagged for about two years prior to the establishment of the Council in 2004, Gerberding said. The Council is an arm of Clovis Community College.

Gerberding said the Council targeted local churches and social service centers in the last year, flooding the institutions with information about its services.

“It takes a lot for people to admit, ‘I need help with (literacy),’” Gerberding said.

“They need encouragement. A lot of it is word of mouth, as opposed to someone walking into a scary building and saying, ‘I need help with this.’”

Approximately 6,000 Curry County residents, or 13 percent of the population, idle at the lowest reading ability level, which is below what is necessary for gainful employment, according to Council officials.

Council students hover at the two lowest defined reading levels, Gerberding said. They may be able to identify letters and simple words, but cannot read items such as bus schedules or children’s books, and may have trouble filling out simple forms, such as job applications.

For more information about the Curry County Literacy Council, call 769-4095.