The Rim Country Family Literacy Program is now accepting applicants for a new series of classes scheduled to begin Oct. 3.
Primarily designed for families that have reading challenges, the program serves both adults and children (preferably ages 3 to 5) by teaching adults to improve their reading skills, which in turn helps their children become better readers, and by promoting parent-child literacy activities in the home.
To that end, parents are given a different children's book each week to take home and read to their children.
"The 10 families that participate will be given almost $800 worth of books," program coordinator Cathy Otto said.
The Family Literacy Program was initiated last year to address a very real need, according to Rim Country Literacy Program Director Su Connell.
"Thirty-two percent of adults in Payson do not have a high school diploma," Connell said. "The Payson High School dropout rate is 12 percent."
Perhaps even more alarming is an illiteracy rate of 24 percent in Payson, compared to 21 percent nationally.
"That means one of every four Payson residents can't read."
The Family Literacy Program is based on the proven premise that parental involvement in their children's education leads to higher achievement.
"Learning to read and write starts well before school starts,"Otto said. "That is a key area. What parents can do at home is so very important."
This point is underscored, Otto said, by the fact that children spend just 900 hours a year in school, while they spend 7,800 hours outside of school. It takes time, not money, to bring that ledger back into balance."This part isn't rocket science," Otto said. "We need parents to be involved and energized."
Highlights of the 10-week session, which begins next Friday, include: LlamaRrama, featuring a visit by Mesa del Caballo resident Richard Falkenberg's llamas, and a field trip to the Payson Public Library so participants can get library cards.
"We try to take advantage of our community resources," Otto said.
Entirely staffed by volunteers, including an interpreter, the class meets on Fridays from 9:15 a.m to 11:30 a.m. through December 15. Maximum capacity is 10 families.
For more information or to register, call 468-7257 or visit the Rim Country Literacy program office and classroom at Manzanita Manor Apartments, 809 W. Longhorn Road.
Other literacy programs
- Adult basic education, an opportunity for adults to learn to read or improve their basic literacy skills.
- General Education Development (GED), which prepares students to pass a test for a high school equivalency diploma.
- English as a Second Language (ESL), which utilizes tutors and classes to help non-English speaking residents learn English.
- Citizenship Classes, which prepare students to test for United States citizenship.