Chamber Chat – Literacy and the Lee County Library

September 26, 2021 | Written by: sanford-user

By Meg Moss, Chamber of Commerce Executive Director

September is Education and Literacy month for Rotary International. As a result, the Lee County Library recently presented at a Sanford Rotary meeting. As a proud Sanford Rotarian, and someone who is interested in early literacy, I wanted to share some information with you about our local library.

Lee County Library Director, Beth List, has been in her position for approximately four years. She has either continued, or introduced a host of programming to the facility. Some of those programs and services include computer access for the public, kids play, Do It Yourself crafts, a book club, a banned book club, STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) education and STEAM kits for checkout. During COVID, the library started Facebook Live story time so that children could continue engaging in early literacy attainment. There is also a “books for the homebound” program, and curbside pickup.

Students in Lee County Schools are automatically enrolled to receive a library card, which is attached to their student ID number. The students then have access to all the in-person and online resources the library has to offer.

List describes the favorite part of her job as “having the ability to work in a place that offers every community member the possibility of knowledge, understanding, growth and enlightenment.”

During the Rotary presentation, Brittany Newman, the Community Engagement Director for the Library shared the importance of literacy. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) defines literacy as the “ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate, compute, and use printed and written materials.”

“It’s engaging with the written word” Newman said. There are various types of literacy, and they include the ability to complete job applications and payroll forms, read a map and understand food and drug labels, and balancing a checkbook. “It’s certainly more than just being able to read a book.”

Literacy can benefit economic growth, reduce poverty, and reduce crime. With literacy, people can apply for jobs and hold careers. Effective literacy skills open the doors to more educational and employment opportunities; so that, people are able to pull themselves out of poverty and chronic underemployment. “Literacy truly is economic development,” Newman commented.

As technology accelerates, so is the need to keep up with those changes. “In our increasingly complex and rapidly changing technological world, it is essential that individuals continuously expand their knowledge and learn new skills in order to keep up with the pace of change” stated Newman.

Before the printing press was developed, and in the immediate years thereafter, books were rare and expensive. Now, people have easy access to affordable books for children and adults. Locally, both the Lee County library, and the Books at a Steal bookstore are excellent options for free or affordable books. Both are located in downtown Sanford.

Newman shared that students are learning “how to read” through the end of the third grade, at which time they switch over to being able to “read to learn.” The National Institute for Literacy estimates that 32 million American adults are unable to read. That does not include the adults who are considered low-literacy. “When does literacy start?” asked Newman “Well before a child enters school.” Early literacy includes talking, singing, reading, writing and playing. Play is one of the best ways to teach literacy skills and language. When early literacy is at work, children are twice as likely to be successful in school.

A study of 3- to 5-year-olds who had been read to at least three times per week found the children to be two times more likely to recognize all letters, two times more likely to have word sight recognition, and two times more likely to understand words in context. Early literacy prepares children for success in school.

The library’s role is serving people from birth through adulthood. So, grab your child(ren) or grandchildren, or simply head down yourself to the Lee County Library to find out what all the buzz is about. You can also visit to learn more about the programs and services that are offered.