The Franklin County Literacy Council is a facility where adults can find the tools and skills to help them succeed in life—not necessarily career-specific skills, but basic and important life skills: the essential skills of reading, writing, and spelling the English language.
The student population at the Franklin County Literacy Council, centered in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, is made up of adults with varying backgrounds and needs. Many of them are males with learning disabilities and without high school diplomas. Often, these students have been employed in manufacturing jobs for quite some time and the company they work for has then closed its doors, leaving them jobless.
“When that happens,” relates facility coordinator Barbara Noel, “(they) are faced with a really difficult situation. Most (employers) look for a high school diploma before they even look at a job application. So, even though (the students) are good workers, they have a … problem.”
One such student, Tom*, had just lost his job and was looking for help to get back on his feet. Noel and the staff at Franklin County Literacy Council’s life skills program, which did not include a reading program at the time, came to his rescue. Tom remained in the program there until he got a new job. Shortly thereafter, however, he sustained a leg injury that made it impossible for him to work; he then found himself back at Franklin County, where a Reading Horizons, a literacy program, was in place.
“(Tom) wasn’t (a) beginning-level (reader),” Noel remembers, “but he needed help with reading and writing and spelling in particular. Now, he’s a supporter of the program.”
Reading Horizons also serves a growing body of English as a Second Language (ESL) students, including a significant number of Bosnian refugees and a large group of Guatemalans who work at a local manufacturing plant.
“(One student is) a lady from Germany who speaks several languages but needed help with English spelling,” Noel recounts. “(Reading Horizons) is helping her a lot.”
Noel has found that the literacy program especially meets the needs of students with learning disabilities who have tried several other methods without achieving any significant level of success.
“I tell them, if they have a learning disability,” she says, “they’re not going to outgrow it. They haven’t until now, and they’re not going to. This (program) gives them tools to check themselves.”
As for Tom, those tools seem to be working. When the computer lab at Franklin County lost its literacy teacher, Tom decided to become a lab assistant to help keep the lab from closing. Now, he is looking into the possibility of working with an employment program to get paid for his work in the lab. Franklin County and Reading Horizons have given Tom new skills, but they also have given him greater self-confidence, which, Noel says, is what really makes the difference.
For more information on the Franklin County Literacy Council, please call (717) 709-4942.
*Name has been changed