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Survey shows one of every four Alabamians functionally illiterate

By By Michael S. Hill
Advance Staff Writer
Escambia County (Ala.) residents, look around you. On average, nearly one of every three adults you see are functionally illiterate.
To be more accurate, 29 percent of all Escambia County operates at Level One literacy, according to The State of Literacy in America, a 1998 study compiled by the National Institute for Literacy. The study is an extrapolation of a 1993 literacy study and 1990 Census figures.
If it's any consolation, Escambia County is not much worse than the state average for illiteracy. One of every four Alabamians scored at Level One.
Greene County scored the highest, or worst, with 51 percent of residents scoring at Level One. The counties of Bullock, Hale, Lowndes, Macon, Perry, Sumter and Wilcox all scored in the 40s. Shelby County scored the best, with only 14 percent scoring at Level One.
But the survey is just a gauge left to interpretation by experts. Cindy Warner is the Community Outreach Coordinator for the Literacy Council of Central Alabama, and is all too familiar with the survey and Alabama's literacy problems.
Warner said that operating at a low level of literacy proficiency is especially dangerous is today's world.
Bradley Byrne represents the Escambia County area as the District 1 Alabama State Board of Education member.
Byrne said state-sponsored measures have been implemented to help combat adult illiteracy in Alabama.
Warner said possessing employment skills is especially important today.
Warner's sentiments are echoed in The State of Literacy in America, which reports "… our success as a nation demands basic literacy skills for all adults."
For more information on how you can help, call the National Institute for Literacy Hotline at 1-800-228-8813 or visit NIFL's Web site at www.nifl.gov.