The Literacy Council of Cashiers spreads the gift of literacy
By LIESEL SCHMIDT
“Literacy is a bridge from misery to hope.” -Kofi Annan
Though many of us take literacy for granted, it is a skill that opens worlds—whether through the adventures we take in the books we read or the doors that are unlocked by the knowledge we gain through reading. It’s also necessary to daily life: signs, menus, instructions, food packaging…. They all require the ability to read.
But what if you couldn’t?
The Literacy Council of Cashiers, Inc. was established in 2006 to ensure the community of Cashiers has all the tools it needs to overcome the challenge of illiteracy. Unfortunately, 30 percent of the residents of Jackson County live in the lowest levels of literacy, making the issue all the more pressing. Without the ability to read, these individuals are unable to get well-paying jobs, vote in elections, or even read information crucial to their health, like prescription labels or post-surgery instructions.
“The purpose of the Literacy Council is to promote and support literacy in the local population, from birth through adulthood,” explains Serenity Richards, Branch Librarian
at Albert Carlton-Cashiers Community Library. “Children are provided with age-appropriate and developmentally appropriate books and materials, and the Literacy Council works with parents and teachers to provide literacy support services to school age children. We also provide services to increase oral and written communication and English language learner (ELL) services for any person needing these services.”
The Literacy Council offers various programs and services, including tutoring services (in school, after school, and through the Boys and Girls Club Power Hour) as well as tutor training, in addition to providing the Dolly Parton Imagination Library service to children from birth to age five. Created by Dolly Parton, whose own father was unable to read or write, the program supplies each child with one age-appropriate book every month to enhance early literacy skills.
To make books even more available, the Literacy Council also hosts book giveaways at both Blue Ridge School and Summit Charter School for kindergarten through 8th grade students. “We’ve given over 18,000 books since we started the program in 2014,” says Nancy West, who joined the Council in 2010.
They support the Five-on-Five Summer Book program, as well, which offers five books for each school-age student, from kindergarten through 5th grade, to read over the summer in an effort to encourage children to continue reading after they have left school for their summer break. Quarterly Saturday story times at the library bring children and their parents into the library and make social reading an event, and the Literacy Council also partners with the Albert Carlton - Cashiers Community Library, Village Green, and Vision Cashiers/Friends of the Village Greenway Ramble to provide a bilingual Storywalk at the Village Green.
“Literacy level continues to be a key social and economic indicator,” says Richards, who has been involved with the council since 2011. “Literacy organizations like ours provide no-cost help to our most vulnerable community members in gaining literacy skills. We also offer fun, friendly, and effective help to any community students who may need a little extra help attaining school grade goals, ensuring these kids don't fall behind. The Council continues to identify literacy needs in the community and works to support and meet those needs. We are currently looking at ways to support adult and Spanish speaking learners so that their literacy levels are also increased.”
All of the council’s funding comes from local granting organizations and individual supporters, and each summer, they partner with local restaurants in the Lunch for Literacy program. “This is a great initiative that encourages support of local restaurants as well as literacy advocacy because, while you’re eating out at your favorite restaurant, they give a portion of the proceeds to the Literacy Council,” says Richards. The Literacy Council is an entirely volunteer organization, with no paid positions, meaning that every dollar given goes directly to their literacy projects.
“Funding and volunteers are always the biggest challenge,” says Richards. “Literacy needs outstrip available resources, and we are always accepting new tutoring volunteers.”
Future projects for the Literacy Council include building a Little Free Library for people to give and take books to read in the Norton Road area. “We’re also looking for ways to meet adult literacy needs in the Cashiers area and do some partnering with Big Brothers Big Sisters,” says West. “We’ve always received great feedback for programs we support. We also talk with the two schools and preschools about any needs we can help them fill.”
For more information or to make a donation, please visit cashiersliteracycouncil.org.