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Hall Countys adult illiteracy among highest in state
Official says those who lack skills have fewer ways to bounce back these days
Tammy Reed, center, 48, of Gainesville works at the Hall County Adult Learning Center of Lanier Technical College Thursday as part of the General Education Development Program, which she has participated in since May 2008. Thursday, the U.S. Department of Education released state and county data on adult literacy for the first time, showing 1 in 4 adults in Hall County lacks basic reading skills. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Adult illiteracy

Adults 16 and older lacking basic literacy skills, based on numbers from 1992 and 2003.

By state

Alabama: 21 percent to 15 percent

Georgia: 18 to 17

South Carolina: 20 to 15

Tennessee: 19 to 13

By Georgia county

Banks: 23 to 17

Forsyth: 15 to 8

Gwinnett: 7 to 19

Hall: 18 to 25

Jackson: 26 to 16

Lumpkin: 19 to 13

White: 18 to 13

Whitfield: 20 to 28

Source: National Center for Education Statistics


Learn to read

To enroll in reading courses or to volunteer as a reading or math tutor at the Hall County Adult Education Center, call 770-531-6410 for more information.

One in 4 Hall County residents lacks the ability to read this news article, according to a study released by the National Center for Education Statistics.

The study released Thursday provides estimates on the percentage of adults older than 16 who lack basic prose literacy skills, such as reading materials arranged in sentences and paragraphs, including newspaper articles, editorials and brochures.

The National Center for Education Statistics study was based on 2000 U.S. Census data and adult literacy studies conducted in 1992 and 2003. The statistics released Thursday are the first to provide a snapshot of comparable state and county adult literacy rates nationwide.

While 17 percent of Georgians lacked basic literacy skills in 2003, 25 percent of Hall Countians were estimated to lack basic reading skills, according to the study.

Robert Bates, lead General Education Development instructor for Lanier Technical College’s Hall County Adult Education Center, said the estimate mirrors Hall County’s high school drop-out rate. He said the adults who show up at the education center seeking help learning to read are men and women of all ages and races.

"One of the things that really concerns us about adult literacy is that a lot of doors are now closed to adults who lack a high school education ... because of the economy and the job market," Bates said. "... If you cannot read, you cannot do mathematics, you cannot do science because you cannot read and comprehend and understand."

Bates said many adults who come through the adult education center are functionally illiterate. He recalled one 50-year-old man who came to the center wanting to learn the alphabet, and left able to read basic material.

Bates said he is uncertain as to the reason behind Hall County’s high illiteracy rate.

The percentage of adults unable to read basic material is in the teens or lower for all counties surrounding Hall.

In addition, while the percentage of adults lacking basic reading skills decreased in Georgia from 1992 to 2003, the percentage went up in Hall. According to data used in the study, 18 percent of Georgians couldn’t read basic material in 1992; the percentage was the same for Hall. In 2003, the state level had dropped to 17 percent while Hall County’s had risen to 25 percent.

The national studies showed 14.5 percent of adults nationwide could not read basic material in 2003, and 14.7 percent could not in 1992.

The study classifies adults who lack basic prose literacy skills as those who range from being unable to read and understand any written information in English to being able to locate easily identifiable information in short, commonplace prose text, but nothing more advanced. The estimates include adults who were not able to communicate in English or Spanish and could not be tested, classifying them as lacking basic prose literacy skills.

States range in percent lacking basic reading skills from 6 percent in New Hampshire, Minnesota and North Dakota to 23 percent in California.

In Georgia, Atkinson County had the highest percentage of adults lacking basic reading skills at 36 percent. Forsyth and Fayette counties had among the lowest percentage in the state of adults who lacked basic reading skills at 8 percent.

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