Literacy is essential to effective library use and to true participation in a democratic society. Yet many of our adult citizens can not read, or write or are unable to perform either function at a high enough level to enable them to be effective members of society. Why? There are many answers, including a poor school experience, learning disabilities, and economic or social status. In today’s increasingly diverse society another factor is the inability to read or write English due to recent arrival from another country.

One of my personal joys is the experience that I am privileged to have as a member of The Rita Welsh Adult Literacy Program board of directors. This group has provided adult literacy instruction in the Greater Williamsburg Area for the past 33 years. This week the Program held its annual awards ceremony. It brings tears to your eyes to see individuals so proud of their achievements. This year 42 individuals were awarded certificates for completing 35 or more hours of instruction. In addition, over 200 more learners received instruction from over 200 volunteer tutors. This instruction enabled individuals to achieve high school completion, pass certification exams to retain or qualify for better employment, obtain their drivers’ licenses or improve their communication skills to become better functioning members of our community. It also enabled many to obtain their first library card and become regular library users.

The Rita Welsh Adult Literacy Program began as a way to assist employees of the College of William and Mary in obtaining reading and writing skills, and the program has been housed on the William and Mary campus since its inception. In recent years, the diversity of enrolled learners has increased. The 248 learners this year represented 50 countries and 32 different languages.

What does this have to do with the Williamsburg Regional Library? and Why am I making it a topic of this post?

As we use the library, or have this institution as a place of employment, we tend to forget that there are many in the community that are unable to take advantage of the tremendous programs and services found in the library. Lets us thank organizations such as The Rita Welsh Adult Literacy Program and the many community volunteers that are working hard on a daily basis to make the Williamsburg area even a better place to live!

So long for now!

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