By Amber Harris, guest blogger
When it comes to literacy, it might seem to the casual observer that the United States as a whole is doing well, especially for people living in urban areas. The numbers, however, tell a different story: a story of a literacy crisis, even in big cities. New York City is home to 6.4 million working age adults, but 2.2 million of these adults do not have a high school diploma or English proficiency, reducing their ability to make a living wage and lead a fulfilling life in the United States. 50% of adults who do not have a high school diploma read at below a basic level, and 44 million American parents are not able to read their children a story.
Funding has been cut from many literacy programs, leaving millions of people in need without any means to improve their literacy. So how do we address this crisis? By getting innovative. Here are just a few ways to gain funding for literacy programs that may require a little creativity, but can help those struggling find new hope.
Just because public funding may be disappearing from many literacy programs, that doesn’t mean that citizens can’t direct their dollars toward literacy using digital crowdfunding. Though most commonly used to sell a product for profit, it can also be used for social programs like literacy efforts. In fact, about 10.7 million was raised for civic projects between 2010 and 2013. One example of this in action is the Alpha-Mania Storybooks crowdfunding campaign, which was created to fund both printed books and e-books for early childhood literacy skills. Supporters received copies of the books, and the intent was to eventually distribute materials digitally at a low cost, allowing more children and educators to benefit.
Many corporations are now beginning to add sponsorships for social programs into their business plans, and tend to support programs that their leaders feel strongly about, or issues that have close ties with the company’s mission. Barnes & Noble is one company that funds nonprofits promoting literacy, but there are other sponsorship opportunities available that can provide much-needed funding.
Money from grants has always been in high demand, but that doesn’t mean grants are not worth pursuing. The Department of Education offers millions in specialized grants, including funding for “Innovative Approaches to Literacy”, while many private organizations offer smaller grants and contests to help fund educational programs.
4. Digital Solutions
Struggling with a rampant literacy issue, Philadelphia met all the challenges head on—by harnessing the power of technology. Investing in digital solutions, the city government used data that detailed what was and wasn’t working to create a free, interactive learning system for adult literacy. In-person classes and small groups coached by volunteers resulted in over 3,000 adults completing their basic literacy training or earning their GEDs in 2015. It’s the creativity and hard work of many that leads to successful literacy programs like Philadelphia’s—and these programs show that innovation can make a big difference.
Check out the infographic below, created by the University of Cincinnati’s Online Master of Education program, which presents the literacy rates in the U.S. Click here to view the original inforgraphic along with additional information about literacy rates in the U.S.
This month we're asking YOU to share! September is a huge month for literacy. Last week was International Literacy Day and just around the corner is Adult Education and Family Literacy (AEFL) Week. The National Coaltion for Literacy (NCL) created this week to raise awareness about the need and value of adult education and family literacy. We hope that you will make the most of this opportunity and set aside some time to plan how your organization will recognize AEFL Week. The NCL and Pro Literacy have created many excellent resources to help you promote the importance of literacy. Here are a few links to get you started:
Last month we asked you for ideas and suggestions on how you find and recruit new volunteers. Here are some of the suggestions we received. Please continue to let us know how you are doing in your efforts to recruit volunteers!
1. Donate adult books with a bookplate/inscription for the literacy program/volunteer, to the public library.
2. Place upcoming tutor trainings in the events column of your local newspapers.
3. Put up a display at the local farmers market.
4. Have “a general interest workshop” (i.e. birdhouse building) and recruit volunteers from among the participants.
5. Set up an information table at the mall.
6. Enlist the support of the mayor and council members.
7. Place a ‘Thank You” advertisement in the local newspaper’s volunteer section.
8. Rent a portable sign and have it placed on a major intersection.
9. Advertise in the newsletters of local retirement communities.
10. Place help wanted ads at the local community college.
11. Participate in college job fairs.
12. Blend traditional face-to-face workshops with online opportunities so that ongoing training is available to volunteers without overtaxing staff.
13. Distribute flyers at major bookstores.
14. Design a special tutor recruitment insert to be added to the city water bills one month.
15. Advertise in your city’s community calendar e-mails.
16. Partner with a 4-H group to provide literacy information and training to its members or with older Girl Scouts.
Sources: Florida Literacy Coalition, Community Literacy of Ontario, The ABCs of Volunteer Recruitment, ProLiteracy, Reducing Waiting Lists.
Our original blog post "How Do You Recruit Volunteers" also contains valuable suggestions on recruiting literacy volunteers. Re-read it here, and as always, feel free to contact us with comments.
Join Together and Celebrate!
As a Board member with the Indiana Literacy Association, my background is not in providing literacy services, rather, my career is in the administration of workforce development programs. While participating less than a year now as an ILA Board member, I have become increasingly aware of the connections as well as disconnects regarding coordinating literacy programs with workforce development program offerings.
The Workforce development system provides services to the general public in WorkOne locations but often times in many other places within a community, such as Community Based Organizations and Libraries.
Staff employed by the Indiana Department of Workforce Development (DWD) and local service providers follow a set of policies and guidelines set by DWD as well as local Workforce Development Boards as they operate their services throughout the State, primarily in WorkOne locations. There are more similarities than not.
In past years, it was a mode of operation for staff in the workforce development arena to make referrals to literacy providers when the customer coming in the door was not able to complete certain basic assessments that were identified as necessary to show work readiness or readiness to participate in any advanced educational training programs. This barrier of low reading, writing and math skills created an image of someone that was not yet able to meet the needs of the employer community, thus a referral was made to get this necessary ingredient taken care of first, then they were asked to return for further consideration.
It is important in today’s world to know one another and share our resources. Together we can raise skill levels, provide job readiness and offer training programs as well as get our customers employed. Lower literacy skills may not keep someone from getting employed after all, and there are many short term career ladder programs people with lower math and reading levels may participate in, funded by the WorkINdiana funding source. There are some criteria for being able to access this training, and staff in the WorkOne can identify this for you if there is a certain student you have in mind. Be sure to take the time to look up your local Workforce Development program staff and get to know them. We have encouraged our staff to do likewise and get to know their literacy providers.
We can join together to celebrate the success stories of our mutual clientele!
Greetings fellow Literacy friends,
We are very pleased to be announcing our 1st Annual Poetry Contest! Adult Literacy Providers throughout the state are encouraged to help us find the
"2017 INDIANA LITERACY ASSOCIATION’S POET LAUREATE."
The recipient of this award will be honored with:
• Indiana State Library Membership Card
• Press release to local newspaper in award recipient’s area
• Overnight stay at French Lick Springs Resort, French Lick, IN, on Wednesday, 4/26/2017
• Recognized as a special guest during the Indiana Association of Adult and Continuing Education State Conference luncheon, where the award winner will be a featured presenter, and read the winning poem(s)
• A plaque commemorating the honor of being named the ILA’s 2017 Poet Laureate
Eligibility: The Indiana Literacy Association’s Poet Laureate Contest is open to all adults who receive any education services from any of the ILA’s member literacy agencies during the defined contest period.
Contest Dates: Poetry can be submitted from January 27, 2017-March 15, 2017.
Selection: Poems will be judged by current Board Members of the ILA.
Decisions: The ILA Board Members will serve as the panel of judges. All poetry submissions will be reviewed. A winner will be selected during the regular ILA Board Meeting in March 2017. All decisions made by the ILA Board Members will be final.
Fees: There are no entry fees for this contest. The selected winner will be responsible for personal transportation to the IAACE Conference on 4/27/2017. Hotel accommodations for one night (4/26/17) will be provided by the ILA.
Copyrights: The author retains all copyrights to the submitted poem(s). Winning poems will appear on the ILA website, with copyright notice intact. By entering this contest, you consent to the publication of your poem, if it is selected as a winning entry, on the ILA website.
Notification: Winners will be announced by March 31, 2017.
Rules: Submitted poems can include any theme and address any topic. Suggestions for themes include, but are not limited to:
A Day I'll Always Remember, Autobiographical/Live Experience, Beauty, Change, Courage, Faith, Family, Forgiveness, Freedom, Happiness, Imagination, Inspirational Theme, My Hero, Music, Opportunity, Overcoming Adversity, Personal Story, Purpose of Life, Regret, Someone I Love, The United States of America, What Literacy Means to Me
To submit your contest entries, download the pdf form below and submit via email to firstname.lastname@example.org:
Our New "Blog of the Month"
Greetings and Salutations fellow Literacy friends,
At our last annual meeting, one of the things that you said you wanted from the Indiana Literacy Association was and is communication and sharing of ideas/resources. So, we formed a communications committee and continued the brainstorming on how best we can do that.
Ta-da…you are now reading the blog of the month. Is that a cheesy name? Maybe we let you name it, hey; maybe we let you write it! Now, we are talking. We will be reaching out to members if you want to be a published blogger, send us an email. The blog intention is to share what is coming, to share how we do all things and to make exciting announcements! I interrupt this blog for a couple of exciting announcements…
ILA Vice President
Communications Committee Chair
Literacy in Indiana
By Cynthia L. Cates, Executive Director, Kosciusko Literacy Services
Long before adults become casualties of illiteracy, they were children who could not read. The window of opportunity for literacy never fully closes, but learning to read becomes more difficult as one ages. The literacy and language centers of the brain develop rapidly during the first five years of life. Though any child may have reading difficulties, children living in low-income homes are more vulnerable to not developing reading skills.
The Indiana Literacy Association estimates that between 800,000 and 1,500,000 adults in Indiana read at basic or below basic levels of comprehension. These literacy skills are below the necessary level to function effectively in today’s society. In addition, 10% [349,000] of the working age population, 25 to 64, do not have a high school or equivalency diploma.
In recent years, Indiana has improved the graduation rate. From the 2008-09 to the 2012-13 school year, Indiana has increased the percent of students completing high school on time by 6%. The rate in the 2012-13 was 81% which ranked Indiana 29th of 50 states and the District of Columbia. Nebraska and Wisconsin topped the list with 93% of students completing high school on time.
[Indiana spent $11,093 per student in 2013. The Per-Pupil Educational Expenditures Adjusted for Regional Cost Differences placed Indiana 28th of the 51 reporting entities. Vermont and Alaska spent the most per student at $19,134 and $18,841 respectively. Arizona and Utah were the lowest at $7,733 and $7,084.]
In 2015, Indiana ranked the fourth best nationwide in the percent of children (25%) who tested below basic for fourth grade reading levels. Only Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont (18 %, 21%, 24% respectively) had lower percentages of children not passing the standardized tests. The national average was 32% of fourth graders failing the standardized tests. Though Indiana is better than the national average, one-fourth (approximately 22,000 children) of the fourth grade students have not mastered minimal reading skills. Fourth grade reading levels are a critical turning point because fourth grade students are no longer learning to read, they must read to learn.
Indiana Title I schools in 2015 had 67% of fourth graders score the below proficient reading level. A proficient student has mastered the reading skills for the grade level. Schools that did not have Title I funding had 50% of the children score below proficient. A four-year average places the Title I schools at 73.5% [76.5% nationally] of children not reading at the proficient level and non-Title I Schools at 53.5% [51.8% nationally] of children not reading at the proficient level. These figures mean that 60% (approximately 53,000) of Indiana’s fourth graders do not read at the proficient level.
In 2015, 72% of Indiana children on the Free and Reduced Lunch Program scored below proficient, while 50% of children not eligible for the program scored below proficient. The four-year averages were 76.8% [81.0% nationally] of the Free and Reduced Lunch Program children and 51.5% [51.0% nationally] of the paid lunch children scoring below proficient. Additionally, 86% of English Language Learners were below proficient compared to 58% of non-English Language Learners scoring below proficient.
Indiana had 49.1% of the total school enrollment on the Free and Reduced Lunch Program in 2015. This percentage breaks into 41.3% of the lunches were free and 7.8% were reduced prices. These percentages represent over a half million children who are vulnerable due to poverty to not reading on grade level.
Clearly, poverty plays a role in literacy. Students from low-income homes are more vulnerable to lacking literacy skills, but only 50% of children not in poverty are reading at the proficient level. Children who do not develop reading skills during the early years are prone to leaving school without a diploma, which leads to a myriad of social problems including a dependence on welfare, teen pregnancy, higher crime rates, and a perpetuation of the cycle of poverty and illiteracy.
The best way to improve adult literacy levels in the future is to improve literacy levels of children beginning before the children enter kindergarten. To make a lasting improvement in society, the cycle of poverty and illiteracy needs to be broken. Education is the best defense against poverty, and literacy is the foundation of all education.
[Sources: http://datacenter.kidscount.org/; http://www.stats.indiana.edu/]