Volunteers help open new doors by teaching Manatee County adults how to read

In Manatee County, one in five adults can't read above the fifth-grade level. The Manatee Literacy Council is addressing this need.

"It's a wonderful opportunity to contribute my skills and capabilities to help make the community a better place," explained volunteer Jeannine Abele.

The council’s goal is to teach people how to read. 

"I get the joy of working with some truly neat people and helping them to learn and grow confidence in their English skills," Abele continued.

The program has been around for more than 40 years and has helped thousands learn the art of reading. 

"It's the most amazing thing in the world to watch them just bloom," said Michelle Desveaux McLean, the council’s executive director, "when they are meeting their potential." 

While the classes are currently online because of COVID-19, for Jeannine, it’s become a way to create a closer bond with her students. 

"Their spouse says hello. The kids jump in. We meet the dog and the cat and we see grandkids. It really a lot of fun." 

Over 43 million adults in the U.S. struggle with reading. 

"[It’s] not just a Florida problem or a Manatee problem but a United States problem," McLean explained. And it’s a problem that the Manatee Literacy Council is trying to fix. 

"If you can't read. How can you advocate for your child at their pediatrician office? How do you take medicine? How do you read a bus schedule? How do you do anything without the ability to read? It really holds people back." 

The free program has 40 tutors, but could always use more. They have a virtual fundraiser next week. 

LINK: www.manatee-literacy.org