A Gift to Last a Lifetime: Coastal Women’s Forum Pays Tribute to the Value of Literacy

Coastal Women's Forum

It is a Coastal Women’s Forum (CWF) annual holiday tradition for the current president to select a charity, and encourage members to donate during the two December meetings. This year, 2016-2017 President Jane Maulucci has chosen Craven Literacy Council (CLC). She hopes CWF members will join the organization in celebrating 30 years of living its mission: “Building literacy skills to empower adults and improve lives.” All donations are tax-deductible, and are used to purchase reading workbooks, educational software and other materials for CLC literacy students.

“As a writer,” said Jane regarding the reason for her choice, “I’m a little biased. We need to be able to read. Everything we do is about words: going to a restaurant and reading the menu, filling out a job application, understanding street signs. Most of us take reading for granted. If you’re not literate, your life is very limited. It’s vital that we make it unlimited for everyone, and that’s what CLC is dedicated to doing.”

Jane’s empathy for people with low literacy stems from her experience as a first time visitor to Germany. Not knowing the language, she found herself unable to understand street signs, and other important information. From this came the realization of even other potential dangers for those who can’t read the directions on a prescription bottle or make sense of an ingredient list that might contain an item to which they are allergic.

So why are approximately 19,000 adults in Craven, Pamlico and Jones Counties struggling with daily activities such as filling out forms, reading product labels and writing a simple note? “Illiteracy in adults typically stems from distinctive, usually inter-related causes,” explained CLC Executive Director, Sandra McKinney. “Together, these often create overwhelming barriers for those affected. The reasons are varied. Factors include parents with little schooling, lack of stimulation at home, doing poorly or dropping out of school, difficult living conditions, and learning disabilities.”

CLC serves Craven County and surrounding areas by giving the gift of literacy to adults prepared to work toward a better, more productive and dignified life. Individual tutoring and small group classes are available free of charge to students thanks to the generosity of public and private donors and the commitment of dedicated volunteers. Still, CLC has a backlog of approximately 100 adults wishing to take their first step toward a life of literacy.

Strict confidentiality and trained volunteer tutors are part of CLC’s commitment to all its students. It is a safe and welcoming place for adults with low literacy skills to find their individual path to a richer quality of life for themselves and their families. “It’s important to understand that there is no shame in this,” said Jane. “There’s opportunity.”

“CLC is serving people who live in our area,” said Jane. They are serving people who went through our school system, people who were born here in the United States, in North Carolina, in Craven County. They somehow got through high school without being able to read past second grade level, and they need to be nurtured, not shamed.”

Low literacy in adults knows no racial, gender, or socio-economic boundaries. “It’s here. It’s us. It’s not out there,” Jane emphasized. “It’s a problem that’s probably within each of our circles. We just don’t know, because they’ve been covering it for a lot of years.”

Upcoming CWF Events:

December 6: Dinner Meeting at the Chelsea. Networking begins at 5:30 PM with dinner at 6:00. Speaker: Carol McCormick, Program Coordinator for Craven Literacy Council.

December 21: Lunch at New Bern Golf and Country Club. Networking begins at 11:30 AM with lunch at noon. Speaker: Amy Reingold, Student Services Coordinator for Craven Literacy Council.

To register for these events, or for more information, visit CoastalWomensForum.com.

The Craven Literacy Council is located at 2507-A Neuse Blvd., New Bern. Learn more by calling 252-637-8079 or visiting CravenLiteracy.org.

By Contributing Author: Penny Zibula, Six Legs Will Travel