Good turnout for literacy meeting

Published 12:22 am Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Nineteen people turned out for a recent meeting to discuss restarting basic literacy programming in Prince Edward County.

The assembly drew representatives from operations such as Longwood University’s Speech, Hearing and Learning Services; Southside Virginia Community College’s Keysville campus; Charlotte Adult Learning Center; STEPS; Leadership Farmville as well as interested locals to talk about restarting or strengthening Adult Basic Education, English as a Second Language, and Family Literacy efforts. They met Monday, Nov. 26, in the meeting room at the Barbara Rose Johns Farmville-Prince Edward Community Library.

The meeting ended with a promise to gather again, probably early next year, to continue the efforts to set up a steering committee that could design some type of vehicle to deliver services, either on a one-on-one basis or to groups.

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There was an immediate call for teachers and tutors to get started working with those in need of basic literacy efforts.

‘You’ve got to shake the bushes, but most things are done by a small core,” said Lonnie Calhoun, III, who organized the meeting. Calhoun served as the executive director of the Charlotte County Adult Learning Center and worked in adult education domestically and internationally.

The literacy programs had previously been spearheaded by the Tri-County Life Learners. Calhoun, soliciting interest through a letter to the editor and phone calls to potential patrons, organized the meeting of those “who share my interest in restarting these programs” and “connecting with others who share my desire to make Prince Edward County a literacy hub that serves the needs of our community.”

Calhoun said he would not like to head the effort but is willing to work with it. Those interested in helping can contact Calhoun at (804) 307-4748 or by email at

Morgan Hayes, with the Farmville library, said the branch is willing to provide space and resources, and representatives of Longwood University and Charlotte County Adult Learning Center, offered support to the cause.

Attendees noted the effort is needed.

Mora Larson, education specialist at Southside Virginia Community College said in the 10 counties stretching from Brunswick to Buckingham her efforts serve, 30 percent of the adult population don’t have a high school diploma.

She noted she also meets people reading below the third-grade level, a problem her program isn’t set up to help. “They’re still learning to read, not reading to learn,” she said.

Estimates say 50-80 percent of them have a learning disability, are slow learners or suffer from attention deficit disorder and need one-on-one attention, Larson said.

“We have a cure for literacy,” she said. “We just need to teach them how to read.”

Consequently, she said, her program is behind the effort to revive the county’s program and will be on the steering committee.

Meanwhile, Amy Beatson, with STEPS, the nonprofit tasked with helping people break the cycles of poverty through partnerships with local governments, state agencies, other nonprofits, businesses and faith-based groups, agreed that the needs are great. Among the sobering statistics she offered: 43 percent of those in poverty are in the low-literacy range, and 50 percent of welfare recipients are high school dropouts. Sadly, she said, two-thirds of those who are struggling to read by the fourth grade end up as dropouts or on welfare.

“It’s amazing the … ripple effect literacy rates make on the neighborhood,” Beatson said.