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Letter - Wiping out illiteracy is within reach

To the editor:

The Learning Center wishes to thank the community for participating in the recent book drives conducted by Newton County 4-H and First Baptist Church of Covington. Paula Hopkins, an eighth-grade member of 4-H, reached out to Newton County fifth-graders who brought in over 2,000 books. Between the Hedges and The Joy Sunday School classes at First Baptist Church received more than 500 books from their congregation and early learning center. The Learning Center distributes the books through our community partners: Newton County Health Department, Family and Children's Services, Salvation Army, Project ReNeWal, and other organizations serving Newton County families with young children.

Children who are read to, sung to and talked to during the period when they are learning to speak have stronger brain webs and bigger vocabularies needed for reading success. Research shows that the more books a child has in the home, the higher his reading score. Your donation helps The Learning Center reach many children whose limited resources don't allow their families to purchase books or to access the public library. The Learning Center is the only Newton County non-profit whose mission is to provide education and resources that enable parents to prepare their children from birth to age 5 to be ready to read. In addition to distributing books, The Learning Center offers Leap Into Books workshops and other early literacy programs.

The need for The Learning Center's services is urgent. Children who enter school unprepared to read are much more likely to drop out of high school, become teen parents, be unemployable, live in poverty, have chronic health issues, participate in crime and pass on these behaviors to their own children. A child of a high school dropout is twice as likely to drop out as a child of a high school graduate; 25 percent of Newton County adults do not have a diploma. The way to break the cycle of illiteracy is to ensure that every child participates in early literacy activities.

Literacy shapes the quality of life in our community now and in the future. Literacy determines whether our workforce attracts quality jobs; literacy influences how our voters choose those who govern us; literacy affects every citizen's economic security. We can choose to spend millions of our tax dollars on social services or we can invest in early literacy initiatives such as The Learning Center. Every dollar spent on early learning is estimated to save $7 dollars in remedial education, welfare and prison costs. With 7,500 children under the age of 5 currently living in Newton County, the price of eliminating illiteracy is within reach.

If you would like to help change lives for generations to come, please consider making a financial donation to The Learning Center. Contact Mollie Melvin, executive director, at 770-787-2778 or www.leapintobooks.org for more information.

Executive Director Mollie Melvin

The Learning Center of Newton County

Covington