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Covington now a certified literate community
September declared Family Literacy Month
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Local organizations have helped more than 6,262 Newton County adults improve their reading skills over the past eight years, and as a result, Newton County was named a Certified Literate Community by the Technical College System of Georgia.

The ceremony took place at Saturday's annual Literacy Festival, where Mayor Kim Carter also declared September to be Family Literacy month in Newton County.

The path toward becoming a CLC started in 2000, when the county commissioners and community as a whole decided to prioritize increasing literacy in the county, said Laura Bertram, Coordinator for Newton County Community Partnership. The goal was to have more than 50 percent of nearly 12,000 Newton County adults with no high school diploma or GED, be literate within 10 years. However, because of concerted efforts by organizations like Newton County READS, The Learning Center, DeKalb Technical College, Washington Street Community Center and others, the goal was reached in only eight years.

Bertram said by educating thousands of adults and getting them interested in literacy, the community helps thousands more children, because those adults set an example.

"When adults learn to read it makes a real statement to kids about how important literacy is," Bertram said. "Educating more than 6,000 people has made a big impact in the community."

She said the business community educated their workforces, educational institutions helped people go back to school and get their GEDs and organizations like Newton Reads tutored individuals, one-to-one.

James Johnson, admissions director at DeKalb Tech, said many people worked with Newton READS, then got their GED and then went on to college.

The Learning Center's Mollie Melvin said Saturday's presentation was an acknowledgement of the collective efforts of the community and its dedicated non-profits.

Greg Shy, co-chair of Newton READS, said he was proud to see the goal reached.

"I love this program and all of our efforts paid off today," Shy said. "It's been an honor and a privelege to have worked on this program over the last eight years."

Newton READS Director Janet Hodges said the literacy efforts are only going to improve and some new programs are being started at places like the newly opened Rainbow Covenant Ministries' homeless shelter. Officials said the goal now was to educate another 6,000 adults.