The Arkansas Literacy Councils is changing its name this week to Adult Learning Alliance of Arkansas in an effort to better help adults who read below a fifth-grade level.
"We felt the new name was a better way to communicate the work we do for Arkansans 18 years and older," says Executive Director Nancy Leonhardt. "Alliance represents that we are the umbrella organization for a network of about 27 community-based literacy councils around the state."
There are roughly 320,000 people statewide who are illiterate with 32,000 of those in Pulaski county, according to Leonhardt. "The focus nowadays is not just on the areas of reading and writing, we're also improving adult's health, digital, and financial literacy and soft skills."
The ALA serves as a foundation for adult education for low level learners, helping adults reach a fifth-grade reading level, he says.
"Once they do that, that gives them the skills to move on to an adult education program where they will hopefully get their GED and then hopefully get a job or go on to a trade school or college, if that's their goal.".
Leonhardt said State Representatives James Sturch and Warwick Sabin, who attended a press conference annoucing the change Tuesday, are supportive of the move.
"They understand the need to help adult learners who read below a fifth-grade level because they understand it effects the communities, it effects these learners' abilities to get a job to support a family."
"Improving adult literacy is a critical priority for our state, and our leaders should unite to address it," said Sabin in a press release. “I am proud to join Rep. Sturch to support ALA and secure the funding it needs to continue its important work."