Can you imagine not being able to read a prescription label, a job application, or your mail? Imagine the inability to write a birthday card to your mother or best friend. These are common struggles for many adults in our state. According to the National Center of Education Statistics, 15% of the adults in South Carolina lack basic literacy skills, reading at or below the third-grade reading level.
An organization dedicated to a literate South Carolina is helping to change those alarming statistics one page at a time. Turning Pages, also known as the Greater Columbia Literacy Council, was established in 1968 by a group of volunteers who came together at a local church in Columbia to open an affiliate of the national nonprofit organization ProLiteracy. Debbie Yoho who served as an executive director of Turning Pages for more than 15 years states that the organization’s longevity can be credited to their dedicated volunteers, who tutor close to 200 adult learners each year. The current executive director, Chris Mathews, explains that tutoring sessions take place in libraries and at the fellowship wing of the First Christian Church on South Beltline Boulevard. Chris is a tutor himself and is excited to see adult learners come from all walks of life—from recent high school dropouts to seniors in their late 70s. In addition to improving their writing and reading skills, students can choose to also benefit from other services, such as getting help with their driver’s license exam or improving their speech and communication skills.
Nate Jamison is only one of the many people whose lives have been changed by Turning Pages. Now in his late 30s, Nate never had a chance to complete high school. He currently lives at Transitions shelter in Columbia, after being evicted from his home. Determined to better himself, Nate enrolled in GED classes offered by a District 1 school. “I haven’t been in school since the 1980s,” shares Nate. “I am just now learning algebra, geometry, English, and social studies.”
As Nate’s tutor, Chris meets him at Transitions for 1-2 hour sessions twice a week. In addition to face-to-face tutoring sessions, Nate also says that he calls Chris on the phone several times a week when he has a question about his homework. Chris is always eager to help.
“I didn’t think that I would ever pick up another book in my life,” says Nate. “Thanks to Chris, now I don’t want to put a book down.”
Nate likes to read nonfiction and says that Chris is encouraging him to write a book himself.
Nate wants others struggling with illiteracy to not be ashamed and to take advantage of the help available at Turning Pages. “When I first started my GED classes, my scores were really low. I used to sit in the back of the class and I was very shy and felt ashamed,” remembers Nate. “After all my tutoring with Turning Pages, I’m now getting straight A’s and I’m sitting in the front of the class.”
Nate looks forward to receiving his GED and turning the next page in his life.