Utah Literacy Project

The Utah Literacy Project is a door-to-door survey initiated by Wendy Baker Smemoe, assistant professor of English language and linguistics, with Brad Wilcox in the BYU McKay School of Education and Russell Warne, assistant professor of psychology at Utah Valley University. The survey includes questions about the ability to read prose, numbers, documents, and information on computers.

The main goals of the project are

1. To determine the number of illiterate adults in Utah County

2. To better understand who in Utah County is illiterate

3. To determine what factors contribute to their not seeking help

4. To determine what health effects may be related to illiteracy

Smemoe has served for a decade as a volunteer and board member of Project Read, a non-profit organization that helps with adult literacy. The survey organizers hope their research will help Project Read and other non-profits reach out to adults who can benefit from literacy programs and help adults with literacy needs to seek out the several free programs in Utah County.

F20140903_130325or the students who have conducted over 100 surveys in Orem and Provo neighborhoods, it’s been a great opportunity to interact with community members and to learn about what literacy is and how to set up and carry out a study.  Judy Ma, a graduate student, observes that “the most surprising thing for me is that some people didn’t want to take the survey because they thought their literacy was pretty high.” Another student, Bradley Elders, who has conducted many interviews explains that people “gladly participate when they learn that they will help those who need extra assistance.” He is “eager to see the results, knowing how much potential this project has.”

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