Between now and April 1, advocates for adult literacy are asking the State Legislature to consider increasing funding for the state's Adult Literacy Education program.

The lack of literacy skills is the thread that weaves through so many of today's societal issues, including poverty, incarceration, and dropouts. To solve these socioeconomic problems, we must start building more literate communities and a more literate adult population.

Literacy New York's 35 affiliates serve more than 6,000 adults. Trained volunteers work one to one and in small groups with adult learners whose goal may be a high school equivalency diploma, the ability to read with their child, or to become an American citizen.

Literacy funding is an investment in the state. An adult who can read can strive for more than a minimum-wage job. An adult who can read will read to his or her children. An adult who can read can break the grip of dependence on government assistance, and become independent. Fostering literacy skills in adults allows them to be better parents, better employees, and more active and engaged citizens.

Literacy Volunteers of Rochester serves over 500 adult learners each year with the help of nearly 300 volunteers who last year contributed more than 17,000 hours of service. However, nearly 100 adults are on a waiting list to get a tutor every day while many more in our community who could be served are still unaware that help is available.

There's a saying in New York: "literacy leads." It leads to employment, to independence, and to opportunity. The ALE program helps adult learners lead more meaningful, independent lives and it needs our support.