I’m sure we’ve all seen the bumper stickers, canvas bags, and posters that say, “If you can read this, thank a teacher.” Many of us take literacy as a given in our day to day lives, but for some of our neighbors, co-workers, friends and family, literacy feels like a distant dream. Fifty-one percent of adults in Texas read below the eighth grade reading level, and 23 percent read below the fifth grade level. Literacy Council of Tyler works to make dreams of literacy a reality through their Adult Basic Education, English as a Second Language, GED and College prep classes and family literacy programs. LCOT partners with multiple agencies in the Tyler area, including Tyler Junior College, Tyler ISD and Junior League of Tyler.
The program, begun in 1990, quickly expanded to meet the ever-growing needs of Smith County residents and their families. In 2012, Literacy Council of Tyler provided educational services to 2,300 students with a staff of 44 and 360 volunteers. LCOT has been recognized for its efforts by the State of Texas, by the Texas Education Agency and the Federal Performance Measures for Adult Education.
One particularly endearing program through Literacy Council of Tyler is Bill’s Bookshelf, a project which provides new or gently used children’s books to families in the community for free. Volunteers and employees spread bookshelves holding child-appropriate reading materials throughout various locations in the community and restock them regularly. Named for an avid writer, reader and LCOT volunteer, Bill Holmes, the program encourages reading by bringing books in to homes that might not otherwise have them.
Literacy Council of Tyler supports the education of multiple generations through its many programs, reaching a wide variety of families and changing the economy, population, and individuals within our community. The literacy rate of Smith County may be researched and quantified, but the sense of accomplishment and pride students and volunteers of LCOT experience remains intangible.