Gary and Nancy Padak with President Todd Allen
Club members heard from the Literacy Committee members Irene Dobies, Chris Anderson, and Gary Padak. The trio read an excerpt from “Oh, the Places You’ll Go” by Dr. Seuss to raise awareness of International Literacy Day, which was Sept. 8. Committee members also drew winners for three books on the New York Times bestseller lists. Marissa Troxell won a copy of Personal; Mike Bird won a copy of Flash Boys; and Wally Bloomquist won a copy of Unbroken.
Gary and his wife, Nancy, gave a presentation on literacy. Rotary has been involved with the literacy movement since 1985, when it declared literacy to be a pre-condition to the development of peace. In addition to “lighthouse” literacy projects around the world, Rotary supports basic education and literacy efforts designed to increase adult literacy and reduce gender disparity in education.
Locally, Gary and Nancy said that the Rotary literacy committee has conducted a book drive, built the Parents are Reading Partners program, and has supported the Monghol Burei Academy in Cambodia. The Padaks said the committee is looking for ways to expand their literacy efforts to include reading to senior citizens, summer reading programs, and possible the creation of a community literacy coalition.
Gary and Nancy shared a few literacy statistics. Worldwide, 84.1 percent of adults are considered literate. But that leaves 773.5 million people illiterate worldwide, and 64% of those are women. Worldwide, 123.2 million youth between the ages of 15 and 24 are considered illiterate, with the worst areas in sub-Saharan Africa and south and west portions of Asia. Between 1990 and 2014, literacy rates in the Arab states increased from 55% to 79%.
Locally, the numbers are sobering. In the United States, 30 million people – or 14% of the population – lack basic prose literacy skills. In New York State, that percentage rises to 22%. In Chautauqua County, 17% of youth ages 18-24 lack a high school diploma. In Jamestown proper, that number increases to 18.6%.
The ability to read and write has economic, social, and crime rate implications. For example, there’s a direct correlation between literacy and poverty. In New York State, 31.6 percent of the population over the age of 25 lacks a high school diploma and lives in poverty. In Jamestown, that number jumps to 42.6 percent. And 31% of all children under the age of 18 in Chautauqua County live in poverty.
For every $1 invested in literacy efforts, Gary and Nancy said that society gains $16, so the return on investment is very good.
The meeting adjourned. A good time was had by all.
Readers Irene Dobies, Chris Anderson and Gary Padak
Book winners Mike Bird, Marissa Troxell and Wally Bloomquist with Gary Padak