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A lack of literacy can cost you money. An NC college is trying to change this

South Piedmont Community College’s adult literacy program offers a free program to improve adult reading skills.

MONROE, N.C. — There’s a large price tag linked to millions of Americans unable to read past a sixth-grade level. A Gallup study estimates that low levels of adult literacy could be costing the U.S. as much as $2.2 trillion a year.

That's because literacy is connected with personal income, employment levels, health, and overall economic growth.

WCNC Charlotte is always asking "where's the money?" If you need help, reach out to WCNC Charlotte by emailing money@wcnc.com.

Mary Ann Grochowski, or Miss G as her students call her, is volunteering at South Piedmont Community College’s adult literacy program to improve adult reading skills. 

“When you are 37 years old, and reading at a pre-kindergarten level, or 68 years old, and reading at a second-grade level, you know, somehow you've accommodated, but that doesn't mean that you achieved the goals that you wanted to achieve," Grochowski said.

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Adults who have literacy problems can come to the campus for free and take as much time as they need to learn how to read. 

“You will be surprised how many people we talk to every day, and we meet every day," RJ Lightsey,  the SPCC Director of Literacy Services, said. "But when it comes to actually reading and understanding what they read, they're at a loss for that, but they can hold a conversation. And what makes it difficult is when we don't recognize those people, those prospective students." 

The SPCC College of Career Readiness started to house the program in 2021. It was originally started in the Monore area by a nonprofit called Common Heart in late 2019. The program was later moved to the college after Common Heart took on expanding its food pantry network and economic empowerment programs. 

According to the U.S. Department of Education, 54% of U.S. adults 16-74 years old lack proficiency in literacy.  Which means they're reading below the equivalent of a sixth-grade level. 

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In the Anson and Union County area that number sits at 30-35% of people in the area, according to the SPCC College of Career Readiness. 

“You know, how do you leave a note for someone?" Grochowski asked. "How do you text if you can't put three letters together? How can you answer a text? You know, what do you do in an emergency? How do you tell people what the street signs are? If you can't read them and you can't pronounce the words, it's difficult."

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Once students leave the reading program, they can start to write a new chapter of their own book of life. 

The program is free. Those interested in volunteering as a tutor or enrolling as a student can email rlightsey@spcc.edu or call 704-290-5261.

Contact Shamarria Morrison at smorrison@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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