Transportation or the lack of it may be the major problem in getting local illiterate residents help, members of the newly formed Lawrence Committee for Literacy said Thursday evening.
Composed of representatives of several local civic and social service organizations, the committee was formed to help Lawrence area residents who need literacy services find and use resources available in the city.
At their kickoff meeting Thursday evening at the Boys and Girls Club, members of the group said many people with literacy problems don't have transportation to get to agencies such as the Adult Learning Connection, which provides reading and writing instruction.
Sidney Roedel, a Kansas University staff member who chairs the literacy group, said "it's hard to put people in touch with resources" in Lawrence. Roedel said she didn't envision the Lawrence Committee for Literacy as a service-providing group but as a coordinating group.
ABOUT ONE in five Americans is believed to be functionally illiterate. Judy Juneau, supervisor of the city's alternative high school, said awareness that illiterate people do exist in Lawrence needs to be increased.
"Some people wouldn't believe there are illiterate people in Lawrence," because Lawrence is such a professional and well-educated community, she said.
Al Hack, vice president of the United Way of Douglas County, said awareness seems to be building in Lawrence. He said a good cross-section of people was interested in serving on the literacy committee, which he said convinced him that some people are aware of the problem.
The group, which will meet monthly, has several tasks to accomplish, including gauging the community's literacy needs and finding out what other communities are doing about literacy. Several members of the group also discussed getting involved in the push for public transportation citywide.
"TRANSPORTATION is a huge issue in this town," said Martha Skeet, a registered nurse with the Lawrence school district.
For example, John Alesch, executive director of the Boys and Girls Club of Lawrence, said that agency would be able to provide more service if it could find volunteers to drive vans.
Susan Rumans, a member of Students Tutoring for Literacy, a Kansas University student group that provides literacy services, said she believed more illiterate people would take advantage of services if they had transportation.