AUGUSTA, Ga (WJBF)- Augusta University is paying homage to an educational advocate in a big way. The school’s literacy center is now named after its founder, Dr. Paulette P. Harris, who was once a professor in the Education department.

Through the center, Dr. Harris helped thousands of children and adults learn to read. She started the center more than 30 years ago, intending to focus on helping adults learn to read before realizing that kids needed her help too.

Dr. Paulette P. Harris

Dr. Harris’s passion came from her belief that knowing how to read makes life better for everyone.

It was important to her to provide free, high-quality tutoring to people of all ages who need help.

Dr. Betsy VanDeusen is the current director of the literacy center. She said Dr. Harris’s vision still impacts people all over the area.

“Well when you hear people talk about her legacy, you hear about how she instilled in them that same passion that she had. So, I think it was that personal touch that she had with people that really- you know she looked at them and said, ‘I believe in you, I know what you’re capable of and I’m here to help you,'” she explained.

Many kids have fallen below grade level in reading because of the pandemic. Many also struggle with learning disabilities like dyslexia that make reading and comprehension difficult.

For adults, learning to read and read well can have real world benefits.

“Whether you can read or not, not only influences your ability to enjoy things and to learn more, but it really impacts your life trajectory. What jobs you get, being an informed citizen in this day and age, having critical literacy skills. So, she saw that from the very beginning of her vision, that that was our way to really make an impact on this community,” said Dr. VanDeusen.

Dr. Harris was the longest-tenured professor at AU until she died in 2021 at age 71.

You can find more information on how to donate, volunteer or seek services on the Dr. Paulette P. Harris Literacy Center’s website.

Photojournalist: Will Baker.