Literacy group moves forward

Published 8:41 am Thursday, January 3, 2019

A core group met recently to begin ironing out some of the details of restarting or strengthening Adult Basic Education, English as a Second Language and Family Literacy efforts.

The eight people, meeting at in the Vault Room at the Barnes & Noble bookstore, started looking at the possible structure of the literacy effort, possible funding grants that could be applied for, and discussing what other requirements need to be created.

Representatives of STEPS, the Barbara Rose Johns Farmville-Prince Edward Community Library, and Longwood University were among those present.

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The meeting grew out of one in November to discuss restarting basic literacy programming in Prince Edward County.

Lonnie Calhoun chaired the meetings, having noted 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

It was Calhoun who organized the November meeting, soliciting interest through a letter to the editor and phone calls to potential patrons “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.”

Laura Gaines, director of government affairs for 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, said there are 11 funding organizations that serve Central Virginia.

The applications would be due early in the year, they would find out in the summer if the grants were awarded, and the funds would be received in the fall, she said.

Amy Beatson, a vice president with STEPS, said maximizing coordination of services and programs would strengthen the possibility of receiving financial assistance.

She also noted her agency might be willing to handle the grant funds, noting “literacy is a real good fit for us.”

Group members discussed everything from whether to be a council or a single organization, to how to spur attendance and accommodate adult learners without embarrassing them.

It was also decided there might be a need to hire someone to coordinator the efforts. Beatson said someone is needed at least part-time to “give the organization … some structure.”

Morgan Hayes, with the Farmville library, has 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.

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

She noted she also meets people reading below the third-grade level, and pointed to estimates that 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.

Beatson has also pointed out that 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, part of the “ripple effect” is that two-thirds of those who are struggling to read by the fourth grade end up as dropouts or on welfare.

The literacy programs had previously been spearheaded by the Tri-County Life Learners, and attendees decided to ask the status of Tri-County, and what part, if any, it would play in revived local literary efforts.

“I don’t want to reinvent the wheel if the wheel is already spinning,” Beatson said.