Yesterday was Election Day, and it was an important topic in READ classes.  Our students took a keen interest in the election. Like many Virginians, they are concerned about education, healthcare, and taxes.

Historically, literacy has been a barrier to voting. In the late 1800’s, southern states administered literacy tests in order to keep racial minorities from voting. It was not until 1964 that these tests were finally outlawed.

While literacy tests no longer exist, low literacy still remains a barrier to voting. Even one error on a registration form is enough to disqualify a person. Low literacy also makes it difficult for a person to keep up with the news and research candidates. However, people who are enrolled in adult literacy programs are much more likely to take part in politics. Voting is a fundamental right of every citizen and an opportunity to choose our leaders and representatives. It gives citizens an opportunity to voice their will and opinion.

At READ’s 7th Street Christian class, teacher Carolyn Harsh often gives her students a word-of-the-day. On Thursday, October 24, the word was “precinct.” They defined the word, found a synonym for it, and then used it in a sentence. This then led to a related session in which students learned about voting, which included researching their own polling locations and candidates running in their home precincts. Tutor Jack Harsh printed out ballots of candidates running in the precincts where students lived. Students were encouraged to find out each candidate’s stance on the issues so they could make an informed voting decision.

In our Franklin St. Library class, a 61-year-old student voted for the first time in his life! His teacher, Don Wilms, said that he came to class having already researched the candidates running for office. He was so excited to vote!

This is what empowerment through literacy looks like. The READ Center is proud to help students be part of the democratic process.

The READ Center is changing lives through adult literacy. For more information on how you can get involved with the READ Center, consider volunteering as a tutor or donating. If you or someone you know would like more information about joining our classes, learn how to become a student or call 804-288-9930.