Research Shows High Level of Illiterate West Texas Adults

By Wyatt Goolsby
NewsWest 9

WEST TEXAS - It's an alarming problem pushed to the front of everyone's minds, West Texas has high numbers of adults who can't even read a newspaper. A new study through a group at Texas A&M University shows the highs and lows of adults who are illiterate. 

The study from the Texas Center for the Advancement of Literacy and Learning shows some of the worst numbers in our viewing area for illiterate adults is Presidio County, where there are more adults who can't read a newspaper than can. However, the County Judge said he's not surprised.

"We're a fairly rural area out here, down near the border," Presidio County Judge Jerry Agan explained. "We have a lot of small communities, low to moderate housing, low to moderate living. So it doesn't surprise me that the illiteracy in English would be higher."

On the average, 19 percent of Adult Texans can't read a newspaper, but across the NewsWest 9 viewing area those percentages are even higher. Some of the highest, include Gaines, Reeves, and Presidio Counties, with Presidio at an alarming 61 percent.

"We're about the Fourth poorest County in the State of Texas," Agan said. "They have to quit school and go to work. It's an unforunate thing, because they have families they have to feed."

Judge Jerry Agan said even with good schools, a high drop-out rate makes it tough. Plus, Agan said being a border County is a factor.

"We have a lot of Mexican citizens that come into the United States and this is where they first settle," Agan said. "They're not illiterate, but they don't speak English and they don't read or write in English."

"We helped over 400 people last year, and each person has their own reason and their own story," Patti Groce, Executive Director with Midland Need to Read, told NewsWest 9.

Groce said here in the Basin, there are a number of different reasons why adults are illiterate, including dropping out of school for work, early marriage, or learning disablities. That's in addition to those who come from other countries.

She said their non-profit is constantly in need of volunteers to help teach people the skills they need for everyday life.

"Just think about how complicated our world is," Groce explained. "You know, paying taxes, buying insurance, filling out forms, filling out job applications. Job applications can be five or six pages long, and a person who doesn't read well or who doesn't have confidence in their reading level, they just give up."

That's why Groce said their main goal is provide the confidence and tools to anyone who walks in their door.

"They are interested in learning because they know that's how they're going to get the better jobs if they can speak English. They know that's how their kids are going to succeed in school," Groce added. "People can learn how to cope with a lower reading level.

If you would like to see all the percentages: http://www-tcall.tamu.edu/docs/09illitmap.html