The 2000 U.S. Census identified that over 360,000 Coloradans, age 25 and over, never graduated from high school or earned a high school equivalency diploma. Over a third of those same Coloradans failed to complete the ninth grade. Based on these figures, the Colorado Literacy Research Initiative reported in 2002 that one out of every seven or eight adult Coloradans likely cannot read and understand a library book, a newspaper article, a bus schedule, or their child's school textbook.
And, these numbers have only been growing. According to more recent Census data from 2010 as well as 2015 estimates, the number of Coloradans, age 25 and over, who never graduated from high school has grown to over 500,000. For the 2014-2015 school year alone, the Colorado Department of Education reported that 11,114 students dropped out of school.
The consequences of illiteracy on individuals and communities are great. A person's ability to obtain and understand essential information, find and maintain quality employment, generate suitable income and support overall health and well-being are all impacted. In addition, it creates a barrier for parents in supporting their child's early literacy development. The American Library Association's Early Literacy web page states that "a study of 3-to 5-year-olds who had been read to at least three times per week found the children are more likely to recognize all letters, have word-sight recognition, and understand words in context."
For Delta County Libraries, this is a very important issue to consider. "Our mission is Serving and Empowering People, Providing Resources for Life, Leisure and Learning," says Lea Hart, district director of Delta County Libraries. "Providing varying opportunities for our patrons to develop and improve literacy skills is vital in our efforts to achieve our mission."
Aside from the obvious influence the five libraries have throughout Delta County in providing patrons access to books, newspapers, magazines, computers and many other materials that support literacy, there are also many programs available to the community. Weekly storytimes and other youth programming are designed to engage children in reading at a young age and help keep them engaged throughout their lives.
In addition, adults can benefit from various programs and classes that are offered through the Delta County Libraries' Literacy Program. English as a Second Language classes, high school equivalency classes and testing, as well as a new distance learning option are all available to library patrons. "The distance learning program gives us the opportunity to reach far more people with the services and support we provide for completing a high school equivalency test," states Gail Srebnik, literacy administrator for Delta County Libraries. "Previously, if a potential participant could not attend our classes due to work or family conflicts there was not much we could do. Now, with access to a computer and the internet, we can offer an alternative option that allows participants to make their own schedule and work from home. And, if prospective participants do not have access to a computer and the internet at home, they can use computers at any of the five libraries."
These kinds of tailored solutions, adapted over time with the ongoing evolution of technology, are of great importance in a county, a state, and a nation that values the importance of lifelong literacy. To learn more about programs being offered at your local library visit deltalibraries.org.