It’s Adult Education and Family Literacy Week!

Vernetta and BorisToday marks the kickoff of Adult Education and Family Literacy (AEFL) week, a weeklong awareness campaign with activities, toolkits, and information about the great need for literacy programs that serve adult learners. 36 million adults in the United States struggle with literacy, which has an effect on every portion of their lives from employability to civic participation. AEFL week was designated by the United States Congress, and is organized annually by the National Coalition for Literacy and its purpose is not only to raise awareness of the issue of Adult Literacy, but also to celebrate learners who pursue the goal of becoming literate citizens alongside all of the other issues that keep them from living out their dreams.

We at Literacy Mid-South, and you, readers of this blog, know how severe the costs of low literacy are to low literate adults themselves and for us as the public. But not everyone is aware of the costs, or of the unique trials that low literate adults face. In the Mid-South, the toll of low literacy is high. Low literate adults stand to make less money for themselves and their families over the courses of their lives. They may have difficulty even finding employment, or paying bills, or taking prescription medicine, or reading their childrens’ homework–the list is long and varied.

Adult Education and Family Literacy week is also about engaging the public in the issue of adult literacy on multiple levels. For Literacy Mid-South, as a service provider, our responsibility is to share information on either learners or a partner that is doing great work, and we’ll do that soon. For supporters and those who believe in Literacy Mid-South’s Mission, your responsibility (should you choose to accept it) is reaching out to policymakers and spreading awareness to your networks on the issues that low-literate adults face. You can do this many ways: through pointing people that you know to our blog or website, through writing an opinion piece about the issue to your local newspaper, or by writing a letter to your city, county, and state representatives.

If you need any assistance with writing letter or opinion pieces, the National Coalition for Literacy has some templates and a resource guide that you can use. If you want more information about the work that Literacy Mid-South does, check out our website. You can make a donation there as well. And if you would like to visit us and learn more about what we do first-hand, reach out. Call (901) 327-6000 to schedule an information session with Adult Learning Program staff.

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#MSBF2016 Is Almost Here!

MSBF2016

We are less than three weeks away from the third annual Mid-South Book Festival, and this year promises to be a spectacular affair. But we realize that there are some of you who might not know how the Mid-South Book Festival works. Maybe you weren’t able to come out last year, or maybe you came late, or maybe this year will be your first year showing up, and you have questions.

We get it.

Because we’re so nice, we at Literacy Mid-South are going to run down the basics of the 2016 Mid-South Book Festival. We hope that this post will answer all of your basic questions, but we’re not going to spoil everything for you; some of this you’ll have to show up to see.

Wednesday, September 7th: MSBF 2016 Literacy Summit

MSBF 2015 Literacy Summit

The Literacy Summit kicks off the Mid-South Book Festival, and is geared toward educators and literacy professionals. At the summit, nonprofit and government agencies, community advocates, volunteers and adult learners show up to a series of workshops to network, develop new skills and share promising practices. There’s also a keynote speaker at every Literacy Summit, usually someone who’s proven that they kick butt when it comes to promoting literacy and developing ways to help create literate citizens.

This year’s keynote speaker is Yolie Flores, who is the Chief Program Officer with the Campaign for Grade Level Reading. Ms. Flores has kicked lots of butt to ensure that more children from low income families succeed in school.

You can secure your spot at the Literacy Summit by clicking here.

Thursday, September 8th – Jacqueline Woodson at story booth

On September 8th, (amazing famous author) Jacqueline Woodson will be appearing at story booth in Crosstown Arts for a reading and signing. The public is welcome to show up at this, and it starts at 6:00 PM.

Friday, September 9th – Words Matter

Words Matter a VIP event for avid readers and literature lovers! You’ll be able to drink and schmooze with the featured Mid-South Book Festival Authors. There will also be live music, food, and other literary personalities.

Click here to get your ticket to Words Matter!

Saturday, September 10th – Mid-South Book Festival and Street Fair

Mid South Book Festival Street Fair VendorsThe Big Day! Authors, Bloggers, Publishers, Vendors, and the Public will all converge on Playhouse on the Square and the Circuit Playhouse for a whole day of literary fun. There will be panel discussions, author spotlights, and a street fair filled with vendors and community organizations for you to peruse.

Stop into a panel discussion and get the chance to talk to your favorite authors. Then, visit the food trucks at the street fair to refuel before catching a session of  Impossible Language or The Word in the Playhouse on the Square Cafe. Then stop by Burke’s or The Booksellers at Laurelwood’s vendor tables and grab a book or three.

All ages are welcome at the Mid-South Book Festival, and it’s completely free!

Sunday, September 11th – The Student Writers’ Conference

Sunday, teen writers can join Heather Dobbins and other instructors to learn the basics of writing for an audience, as well as other tips and tools for crafting the perfect story.

Sorry, budding adult authors: this event is only for writers ages 12-17.

Register for the Student Writer’s Conference by clicking here!

The Mid-South book festival will be great literary fun for the entire family. We hope to see you there! Click here if you want to volunteer at the Mid-South Book Festival, and visit the Mid-South Book Festival website for more information.

 

 

10 Things that Literate People Can Take For Granted

It’s a safe bet that if you clicked the link to visit this post, you’re able to read. Learning that people aren’t able to read and write is usually a shocking experience. For many of us, reading and writing is something that everyone is able to do, something that is as natural as breathing. However, statistics show that this is not the case. Almost 30% of Mid-Southerners are unable to read at a 3rd grade level.

Even if someone reads at or above a third grade level, they can still face problems–most things that we read in our daily lives are written for intermediate or advanced readers. As a literacy organization, part of our work is to create understanding between those people who are able to function as literate citizens, and those who are not. So today, we’ll be listing the top 10 things that literate people can take for granted. This is not a list to shame people for being able to read. Instead, think of it as a spotlight that shows some tasks and activities that are difficult for the people that we serve.

reading black woman1. The Joy of Reading for Pleasure

How do you feel when you hear that your favorite author has written a new book? Or when you snap open a newspaper and settle down to read the news? For low literate people, reading for the sheer pleasure of reading is difficult to impossible.

2. Navigating Roads and Cities

It took us by shock when we realized how dependent we are on street signs, text-based landmarks, and our navigation systems to navigate roads and streets. Low literate individuals have to rely on coping strategies such as visual markers and route memorization.

3. Ordering Food From a Text-Only Menu

When a restaurant menu is text only, it can be difficult for low-literate adults to figure out what certain foods are, or what their ingredients are. This can cause a problem with enjoying food or with low literate adults who have food allergies, among other things.

4. Researching Information Online

While low literate adults can possess some savviness with mobile phones and technology, that skill is limited by their reading ability. When it comes to finding information about important things online, low literate adults can face significant difficulties locating information and understanding the information that they are able to find is a problem as well.

5. Working in your desired field

Literate individuals have the ability to search for jobs that they want and the educational qualifications to actually stand a chance at getting jobs that they want. Low literate individuals, however, are most often relegated to service careers which, while important, tend to be temporary and unfulfilling.

homework help

6. Helping Children With Homework

One of the most frequent goals of the low literate adults that we serve is the desire to help their children with their homework. Without the ability to read at an adequate level, many low literate adults are unable to help their children complete their homework assignments, which also has an effect on their children’s educational attainment.

7. The Ability to Pursue Niche Education Opportunities

Speaking of education, one of the cool things about the these days is that literate people can pursue all kinds of nontraditional educational opportunities, like online education, auditing university courses, and education via mobile apps. Low literate people are frequently unable to take advantage of these educational opportunities.

8. Voting

Voting is a massively important tool for creating social changes. And while low literate adults can gain understanding about candidates and issues via conversations, their reading ability can block them from gaining that deeper understanding and reaching truth about the stances of candidates and how issues affect them.

9. Receiving Birthday Cards

Even though a birthday card isn’t a complex work of literature, it can still be a difficult task to read the short messages on birthday cards. This can ruin the enjoyment of receiving them. Fortunately, you can always put money in birthday cards.

Vernetta and Boris10. Agency in Interacting with the World

Ultimately, one of the biggest privileges that literacy grants people is the ability to obtain enough information to choose their course in life. Whatever course a literate person decides to take, as long as they’ve bothered to inform themselves on it (and it is something that they can actually control), they have agency in the direction that they’ve decided to go. For low literate adults, much of the agency that information via literacy would provide to them is lost. Therefore, it is important for literate adults and the literate society at large to attempt to change things for the better. Without our help, low literate adults face countless difficulties in navigating our rapidly evolving worlds. And without the ability to make sense of the information presented around them, they lose out on pursuing and attaining their dreams.

Literacy Mid-South provides literacy resources to Mid-South learners of all ages and backgrounds. Our vision is 100% literacy in the Mid-South. Visit our website to learn more about our programs and mission. 

People of Literacy Mid-South: Seeding Success

People of Literacy Mid-South is a column that takes a close look at the folks that make our organization tick. But today, we’re not looking at a person. Instead, we’re discussing an organization whose support and guidance is valuable to Literacy Mid-South.

seeding success

Seeding Success is not an organization that directly serves individuals. Instead, Seeding Success focuses on helping organizations be more effective in serving their communities. Seeding Success works to create collaborative partnerships, called Collaborative Action Networks (CANs for short) that focus on a particular service area. In their own words:

The Seeding Success Partnership collaborates to ensure every child graduates high school prepared for college, career and success in life.

Seeding Success pulls together K-12 institutions, nonprofit organizations, businesses, and countless other types of organizations to work pursuing equitable educational outcomes for children. The organizations that Seeding Success organizes into CANs agree to focus on a set of goals that are developed beneath the umbrella of Seeding Success’ larger organizational goals:

  • GOAL 1: Every child is prepared for success in school;
  • GOAL 2: Every student is successful in school and graduates prepared for college, career, and success in life;
  • GOAL 3: Every youth who is not in school reconnects to education, training, or employment opportunities;
  • GOAL 4: Every young adult has access to a post-secondary opportunity or career.

These goals are put into practice by arranging the CANs to focus on one of eight academic outcomes. The outcomes that Seeding Success and their organizational CANs are attempting to influence are: Kindergarten Readiness, Third Grade Reading Proficiency, Middle School Math Proficiency, College and Career Readiness, High School Graduation rates, Access to Post Secondary opportunities and attainment of success at those Post Secondary opportunities, and a focus on providing educational and career opportunities to Opportunity Youth. Each CAN works together to provide research informed strategies to impact these areas and ensure that children and young adults will lead successful lives.

education studyingLiteracy Mid-South has a presence in two of those CANs. We are the convener of the Third Grade Reading Proficiency CAN, and we provide space and support to organizations who collaborate to improve the rates of reading proficiency at grade 3 for every Shelby County child. The CAN focuses on three areas that impact reading proficiency for grade 3 students: attendance, literacy, and psychological barriers. The CAN has made vision screenings available for hundreds of grade 3 students through a partnership with the Southern College of Optometry, as well as provided books and literacy instruction to thousands of students through Literacy Mid-South’s Summer Reading Program.

Literacy Mid-South’s Adult Learning Program is involved in the Opportunity Youth CAN, a CAN dedicated to connecting roughly 40,000 local young adults between the ages of 16 and 24 who are not connected to education or employment programs with gainful employment and education opportunities. The Workforce Investment Network is the convener of this CAN, and it includes partnerships with the Memphis Goodwill Excel Center, ResCare, and the Tennessee Department of Corrections. The CAN has gathered focus group data from former Opportunity Youth and is now developing a report based on the findings.

Seeding Success connects organizations that work in similar impact areas with each other and allows them to exponentially increase their reach and effectiveness. Without Seeding Success’ unique approach to collaboration, many organizations who are working to make Memphis a better place would be shouldering their burdens alone.

Literacy Mid-South provides literacy resources to Mid-South learners of all ages and backgrounds. Our vision is 100% literacy in the Mid-South. Visit our website to learn more about our programs and mission.

 

The Impact of Immigration on the Workforce

immigrant_workforce_by_quetzalcoatl2k
Image by quetzalcoatl2k.

The last time we discussed our workforce, we were talking about how low literacy and limited English Language Proficiency impacts it. (Click here to visit that post). Today, we’re going to bust up some myths surrounding the impact of immigration on our workforce. Just as a refresher, when we say “workforce” we mean the:

Total number of a country’s population employed in the armed forces and civilian jobs, plus those unemployed people who are actually seeking paying work.

There is a persistent myth among some Americans that immigration is a bad thing for us, among other reasons, because it weakens our workforce. The belief is that immigrant workers will replace our existing workers and take jobs that American-born citizens could hold. The truth is that an immigrant labor force will not replace, but complement our U.S. born workforce.

There are several reasons why immigrant populations help to boost our labor pool. One reason is due to the specialization levels of workers from immigrant populations. Many immigrants are either high skilled or low-skilled, which encourages companies to create specialized positions that many different workers can benefit from. In fact, there are studies showing that an influx of high-skill immigrants actually leads to more job creation. Immigrants also fill many of the low skill jobs, which are not taken by U.S. workforce due to higher education and older age.

An aging population is another reason why immigrants are good for our workforce. Many of our workers are getting older, and there is a gap that will be left when these older workers are unable to perform. Immigrant workers come here with all kinds of skills and abilities that they can put to bear to fill this gap, which will strengthen the workforce immensely. By 2030, it’s believed that 20% of Americans will be aged 65 or older. As these aging workers retire, there will be as many as 33.4 million jobs created.

immigrantfamily

Immigrants also have an impact on the unemployment rate and wages, but not in the way that some might think. Immigrants often move to areas with significant job growth and help boost the economy when unemployment is high. It’s been shown that immigrant workers often help to decrease the unemployment rates for these areas, not increase them. Also, U.S. native workers often make higher wages in cities with a high immigrant population, despite the belief that immigrant workers drive down wages.The average yearly wages of U.S. born workers increased 1.8% because of immigration. A 10% increase in the immigrants might decrease wages by less than 1%, but this number is almost always much closer to 0%. The impact of immigrant influx is often either negligible on wages or leads to a wage increase because even at the lowest level, immigrants increase labor supply and demand, and boost job creation.

Much of the thinking and discussion around the impact of immigrant workers on our workforce is based on stereotype. The belief that immigrant workers are here to leech off of our existing systems and take jobs from American workers just isn’t true. Immigrant workers make our workforce, and our economy stronger. They don’t contribute overmuch to crime rates. They pay taxes for services that they might not receive. They become productive members of society, and are essential to its functioning. And they make things better for everyone in the long run.

Literacy Mid-South is now offering the training these workers will need to succeed in the workplace. Learn more at www.literacymidsouth.org.

Summer Reading With Literacy Mid-South

BooksATP

In a few short weeks, students will leave their classrooms and schools and begin enjoying their summer vacations. During this time, many students will be enrolled in summer camps, community programs, or on vacation with their families. Others will struggle to access meaningful summer opportunities, educational or otherwise. Summer vacation plans notwithstanding, it is important for students (and, some would argue, the entire community–including adults) to read during summer vacation. Students who don’t engage in educational opportunities risk losing some of the academic gains that they made during the school year. This phenomenon is called “Summer Slide” or “summer learning loss.”

Summer learning loss has an adverse effect  on student performance at the beginning of the following school year. In addition to this negative outcome, it can also widen the academic performance gap between low performing students and their peers. This chasm in performance between groups students from different backgrounds is known as the achievement gap. In fact, some research suggests that summer learning loss, especially in the case of students from low income households, can make students already affected by the achievement gap less likely to finish high school or enter college.  

summerlearning1-10b

Students in the Mid-South are not immune to the Summer Slide, and Literacy Mid-South is attempting to mitigate its effects. We’ve developed a summer reading program in collaboration with a network of partners to measure the effectiveness of summer learning loss prevention efforts and hopefully curb the learning loss associated with summer vacation. Our partners include organizations that are already doing meaningful work in the community: Memphis Athletic Ministries, Streets Ministries, and Agape Child and Family Services, among others. We hope not only to mitigate summer reading loss, but also build a community of students and organizations dedicated to summer reading.

This summer we will be rolling out the Literacy Mid-South Summer Reading pilot program that will attack summer reading loss by providing students with rich, complex, and culturally competent books to work with over the summer vacation. Throughout the summer, we will focus on increasing oral language and vocabulary. Our hope is to serve 2000 students through the pilot program, and have around 3,800 students enrolled in the summer reading community. Additionally, every student that participates will receive three books free of charge.

The mission of Literacy Mid-South is to provide literacy resources to learners of all ages and backgrounds. Our summer reading program will work to make good on that mission by providing thousands of underserved children with the literacy support that they need to stay abreast of their peers when school resumes in August. The work that we’re doing now will lead to a stronger Mid-South in the long run.

Want to help us achieve our goal of a 100% literate Mid-South? Consider donating to Literacy Mid-South, or spread the word. And follow our blog for more updates.

The fifth annual Literatini, our book and martini focused event that is “straight up fun for a good cause”, is June 10th at 6pm! Click here to buy tickets.

The Relationship Between Incarceration and Low Literacy

Incarceration Low Literacy

Politicians and journalists often claim prison planners use third grade reading scores to predict the number of future prison beds needed. While it has been found this claim is mostly urban myth, there is in fact a strong connection between early low literacy skills and our country’s exploding incarceration rates. Compelling statistics underscore this connection:

Early Signs in Adults                                                                                            

Pro Literacy

A low level of literacy is not a direct determinant for a person’s probability to be convicted on criminal charges, but correctional and judicial professionals have long recognized a connection between poor literacy, dropout rates, and crime. The educational level of the prison population differs significantly from that of the household population being over-represented with individuals having below average levels of education. According to the National Adult Literacy Survey, 70% of all incarcerated adults cannot read at a 4th grade level, “meaning they lack the reading skills to navigate many everyday tasks or hold down anything but lower (paying) jobs.” Data supports that those without sufficient income earned by work are the most prone to crime. Paul Romero, a correction official once noted, “With legal means of succeeding in society narrowed, illiteracy is heavily implicated in the crimes landing many behind bars in the first place.”

The Department of Justice states, “The link between academic failure and delinquency, violence, and crime is welded to reading failure.” When inmates who left school before receiving a high school diploma where asked the main reason they dropped out of school, about one-third reported they lost interest or experienced academic difficulty.

Early Signs in Children

KidsAccording to a special report, Early Warning, from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, “…the process of dropping out begins long before high school. It stems from loss of interest in middle school, often triggered by retention in grade…and that, in a great many cases, is the result of not being able to read proficiently as early as fourth grade.”

Reading on grade-level by the end of third grade is one of the most critical milestones in education. Studies show that 74% of 3rd graders who read poorly still struggle in ninth grade, and third grade reading scores can predict a student’s likelihood to graduate high school. Donald Hernandez reported in Double Jeopardy, children who do not read proficiently by the end of third grade are four times more likely to leave school without a diploma than proficient readers. While those with the lowest reading scores account for only a third of students, this group accounts for more than 63% of all children who do not graduate from high school.

Factors That Contribute to Third Grade Reading Proficiency

The connection of causes of many societal ills, including poverty, violence, crime, and incarceration in most instances correlate to high school completion rates and literacy skills education for primary grade students. There is an urgent national call for collaborative efforts to ensure children are prepared for college and career through achieving grade-level reading by the end of third grade. Warning Confirmed outlined the following factors effect third-grade reading success:

  • Readiness for school in terms of the child’s health, language development, social-emotional skills and participation in high-quality early care and learning programs.
  • Chronic absence from school must be mitigated.
  • Summer learning loss must be prevented.
  • Family-oriented stressors such as family mobility, hunger, housing insecurity and toxic stress should be addressed.
  • Quality of teaching the child experiences in home, community and school settings.

Education in Tennessee Prisons

  • Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) school system provides offenders with comprehensive academic programs, vocational programs, and library services to prepare offenders for the socioeconomic and occupational environment they will encounter upon their return to the community.
  • The adult basic education and high school equivalency (HSE) programs improve competency in basic learning skills, occupational aptitudes, and general reading/literacy levels.
  • In 2013, 618 HSE Certificates and 3,672 Vocational Certificates were earned in Tennessee prisons.
  • College programs leading to an associate’s degree are also offered
  • Vocational training is offered in: Automotive, Mechanical Technology, Barbering, Carpentry, Cosmetology, Construction, Culinary Arts, and HVAC & Refrigeration

 Education for Adults in the Community

Most low literate adults need to be connected to literacy education programs that assist them with developing the literacy skill necessary to obtain and keep gainful employment, as well as maintain positive lifestyles.

  • In community-based literacy programs there are more than 240,000 learners and 94,000 tutors nationwide
  • These programs provide instruction in basic literacy, GED prep, English, citizenship, job readiness, financial literacy, digital literacy, health literacy, drivers license prep, and other areas of study that interest learners.

Literacy Mid-South’s programs work to improve literacy outcomes for Mid-Southerners of all ages and backgrounds. Our work in the Third Grade Reading Collaborative Action Network directly addresses the need for early elementary literacy proficiency. Our Read Memphis Project has replicated our Adult Learning Program within the Shelby County Department of Corrections, in order to assist as many low literate incarcerated individuals as possible. Learn more about our Third Grade Reading Collaborative Action Network by clicking here. And if you’re interested in our Read Memphis Project, learn more about that by clicking here.