Community literacy coalition launches

Published on Friday, 25 October 2013 20:04 - Written by By Rebecca Hoeffner rhoeffner@tylerpaper.com

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A new coalition launched Friday — the Tyler Area Partners for Literacy — aims to improve literacy for all ages in Smith County.

“This organization is advocating and supporting literacy skills for all ages,” said Dr. Kouider Mokhtari, a professor in the education department at the University of Texas at Tyler and co-chairman for the organization’s steering committee. “The needs for literacy services are immense, diverse and widespread. There are kids who advance in school who still have low literacy skills. We have adults who can’t do well in life in general and many high school students drop out in part because of low literacy skills. To do something constructive, we have to work together.”

And working together is just what the group plans to do. Representatives from businesses, the city, nonprofit organizations and individuals are signing up to be members and to help with the cause.

“There is no one organization that can take on all the literacy needs in our community,” said Nancy Crawford, executive director of the Literacy Council of Tyler, which focuses on improving adult literacy in Smith County. “We want to move the needle on this a little more.”

The Literacy Council focuses on adult literacy alone and sees about 2,400 students a year, often with a waiting list on top of that.

More than 3 million Texas adults need basic education services, according to the written release. If just 1 million could receive services, it would be a $40 billion return on the investment.

The coalition already has several programs in the works. Caldwell Elementary and UT Tyler have been working together on a reading program for first-grade students, and the two-year project has shown much improvement in the first-graders who participate, Mokhtari said. The group is looking at expanding to a reading comprehension program with sixth-graders.

The UT Tyler interns who help at the Literacy Council have been “a game changer,” Mrs. Crawford said. The group also is discussing a program with Tyler Family Circle of Care and the Fit City initiative to help people have a better grasp on health and medicine literacy.

“We are going to invest in what works, and make sure we have a reach and an impact,” Mokhtari said.

The coalition will meet two to three times a year and is looking for more people to sign up to become members. Visit tapliteracy.org for more information.

“This is something we are very serious about,” Mokhtari said. “Please help us spread the word. We are looking to put Tyler on the map as a place that values literacy.