Connecting the community around the topic of literacy is the work of the Oklahoma City Metro Literacy Coalition. Our vision is to create a community with 100% literacy. We know that if there is a path out of poverty, it is literacy! Raising a family, supporting that family, keeping them healthy and safe is hard work. Trying to do that when you do not read well is an overwhelming task. Children in families with parents who struggle to read are often not successful in school.
The OKCMLC’s great challenge is to assist needy adults as they navigate the literacy service network. We have a referral line that receives around 150+ calls a year. We hear so many poignant stories. Just recently a young mother of three elementary age children called looking for help for all of them. “I know,” she said, “that I can’t help them until I get help myself.” Adults face the reality of low level literacy when they have to take a certification test in the workplace, fill out forms in the doctor’s office or at school. It’s very hard for an adult to admit that they do not read well. They are embarrassed, ashamed, and feel that they are stupid and unable to learn. Callers are often very appreciative to be able to speak to someone who encourages them to get help and to keep in touch with us if the recommended service does not work out. We continually update our lists of literacy services in order to be a significant link between the learner and community programs. Currently we are receiving calls from parents of children who are looking for help as their children approach third grade public school mandates.
Our work is difficult for some in the community to understand. We do not teach reading or English language skills. Services include referrals to programs and a designated fund that provides GED test fund fees for at-risk adults. According to Linda Dudek, director of the OCCC Adult Learning Center, “the criteria for the GED test funds are need-based and have been such a great help for our students who cannot afford the cost of the test. We are very appreciative of the opportunity for so many worthy students to be able to take advantage of this unselfish gesture on the part of the Oklahoma City Metro Literacy Coalition.”
The OKCMLC also provides professional development and network meetings and community awareness. Our website promotes community literacy events, needs and activities. Network meetings feature speakers or roundtables on topics such as, Vision and Literacy, Advocacy, Health Literacy, Financial Literacy, English as a Second Language, Marketing and Conflict Resolution. Our recent ESL network meeting brought this response from Dr. Gail Nash who teaches at Oklahoma Christian University. “It was also useful for both my "people"(students) just to see how much is going on. Sue and Shelby got a glimpse into what a big deal they are a part of. They both really enjoyed it and got a lot out of it. I'm so glad they could come. So, I think it was very successful and thank you for bringing it together and letting me be a part.”
A national research project, the National Assessment of Adult Literacy, targeted Oklahoma as one of six states to assess in the area of adult literacy. What we learned about Oklahoma adults is that 49% of them read at basic or below levels. According to the Department of Libraries Literacy Resource Office, about 149,000 individuals in Oklahoma County read at very low levels and about 8-10% of them are in programs or being tutored. Here is a visual: If you fill the Oklahoma University Football stadium two times, you have close to the number of citizens needing help. The two end zones represent those engaged in programs.
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