Boosting San Diego Literacy Rate Remains A Challenge
Monday, May 12, 2014
Aired 5/12/14 on KPBS Midday Edition.
Jose Cruz, CEO, San Diego Council on Literacy
Clando Brownlee, Adult Learner
Being able to read and write is something most of us take for granted. But for a sizable minority of Americans, the world of words remains a struggle.
According to the San Diego Council on Literacy's assessment of U.S. Census figures, about 20 percent of San Diego County residents are either illiterate or functionally illiterate. Those figures include immigrants, but the council says more than 70% of the 440,000 illiterate adults in the county are native English speakers.
Since illiteracy rates doubled in 2003, local advocates say literacy has remained a major challenge.
"Progress has been slow, literacy rates in the county are holding," said Jose Cruz, CEO of the literacy council.
San Diego's literacy rate is in line with the national average, while Imperial County's is double that. (41%)
Experts say illiteracy increases the chances that a young person will end up in jail, or that a family will live in poverty.
“Illiterate adults can’t fill out a job application, follow medical instructions, pass a driver’s license test, write a note to their child’s teacher or read their child a bedtime story. Their job options – and earning power – are limited,” said Laura Walcher, event chair. “Illiterate adults and children spend their lives hiding out or faking it, underachieving in every aspect of their lives. Yet, the change they undergo when finally learning to read is remarkable and inspiring.”
For 30 years, the council has been working to improve literacy rates in the county through its 26 affiliated programs.
This week, the organization will hold its annual Eat.Drink.Read fundraising event, where local chefs will serve unique dishes inspired by their favorite book.
“Our $60 ticket price is accessible to a wide audience. Besides wonderful cuisine, folks have great fun with our lively setup and theme,” said Cruz.
KPBS will also announce the winner of this year's One Book, One San Diego community reading program, at Wednesday's event.