Newton READS meets literacy services goal

COVINGTON - Newton County could soon become a Certified Literate Community, thanks to the hard work of Newton READS, a local nonprofit adult literacy tutoring program.

Greg Shy, chairman of the Newton READS Board of Directors, announced at Monday night's Covington City Council meeting that the organization has met its goal of providing literacy services to a majority of adults without high school diplomas or GED certificates.

The county is now eligible to become a Certified Literate Community through the Georgia Board of Technical and Adult Education, proving that "we have met the needs of the community," Shy said.

In 2001, Newton County applied to be certified but was not eligible. At that time, 40.3 percent of county residents age 25 years and older had not completed high school or received a GED certificate, according to information provided by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Newton READS was formed to address this issue, establishing a 10-year goal of providing literacy services to at least half of the 11,938 adult residents with no high school diploma or GED.

Through its various tutoring programs, Newton READS exceeded that goal in just seven years, helping 7,300 individuals, according to Shy.

"The whole county put a real emphasis on literacy and has sustained it over the years," Hodges said, explaining the program's success.

Hodges is in the process of applying for certification and seeking letters of support from elected officials and others in the community. The Covington City Council agreed to provide a letter of support at Monday night's council meeting.

She is hopeful certification can be obtained by November, which is Family Literacy Month.

There are approximately 55 Certified Literate Communities in Georgia. The program's mission is to "mobilize every resource available to a community into an adult literacy campaign that functions within state certification guidelines and will result in a literate community within 10 years," according to the its Web site.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.