Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Declaration for the Right to Literacy

The Right to LiteracyA doc­u­ment has been cir­cu­lat­ing around the coun­try since it was draft­ed in 2009. Called the Dec­la­ra­tion for the Right to Lit­er­a­cy, it cur­rent­ly has 30,000 sig­na­tures, but more sup­port is need­ed to make a big­ger impact when the doc­u­ment is pre­sent­ed to Pres­i­dent Oba­ma next month.

You have an oppor­tu­ni­ty to show your sup­port for this move­ment which states, “We expect 100% lit­er­a­cy through 100% com­mu­ni­ty engage­ment.” Watch videos about “The Silent Cri­sis and “The Right to Lit­er­a­cy,” read more about the project, and fig­ure out how you can help by vis­it­ing the Lit­er­a­cy Pow­er­lines web­site.

Our nation faces a silent yet grow­ing cri­sis: low lit­er­a­cy. Over 93 mil­lion Amer­i­can adults have lim­it­ed lit­er­a­cy skills, cost­ing our econ­o­my $60 bil­lion a year in lost pro­duc­tiv­i­ty, gen­er­at­ing $73 bil­lion in unnec­es­sary health care expens­es, and con­tribut­ing to a host of oth­er prob­lems rang­ing from crime and drug abuse to unem­ploy­ment and home­less­ness. Fix­ing the lit­er­a­cy prob­lem is essen­tial for lift­ing Amer­i­cans out of pover­ty and rebuild­ing a strong econ­o­my.” Hard to believe, but 1 out of every 3 adults and 1 out of every 4 chil­dren in Amer­i­ca is plagued by illit­er­a­cy.

Please go to the Face­book page “1,000,000 for Lit­er­a­cy: Shat­ter the Silence,” to show your sup­port.

Sep­tem­ber is Nation­al Lit­er­a­cy Aware­ness Month. Any­one who has a job that depends on literacy–that would, ahem, be every­body–needs to become fer­vent about this sub­ject.

John Weeks, the fea­tures edi­tor at the San Bernardi­no (CA) Sun, writes about that city’s expe­ri­ence with the two-day lit­er­a­cy event at the San Bernardi­no Pub­lic Library to draw atten­tion to the top­ic and advo­cate for peo­ple to sign the Dec­la­ra­tion that has been tour­ing the coun­try for more than a year. As he says, all the politi­cians in the area were invit­ed. One showed up.

We’re not work­ing hard enough–yet–to make lit­er­a­cy a “sexy” top­ic. It needs to be “sexy” in order for media and politi­cians to turn their heads and take notice. You think I jest? CLN worked on a project to bring atten­tion to a school library that was so over­come by black mold that it had to throw out all (every one) of its library books. We went to the local tele­vi­sion sta­tions with the sto­ry. The rea­son why they wouldn’t cov­er it? “That sto­ry isn’t sexy enough for the news.” As Weeks quotes Phil Yeh (graph­ic nov­el­ist and founder of Car­toon­ists Across Amer­i­ca & the World, a lit­er­a­cy advo­ca­cy group) as say­ing, “Lit­er­a­cy isn’t an excit­ing word. We shouldn’t use the word lit­er­a­cy when we hold a lit­er­a­cy event. We should call it a ‘Free Beer Fes­ti­val.’ We should say ‘Free Food.’ We should trick peo­ple to come in. Then we tell them it’s about lit­er­a­cy.”

There are many efforts under­way.

Bon­nie McCune writes in Amer­i­can Libraries about Col­orado Libraries for Ear­ly Lit­er­a­cy, which can serve as a “tem­plate for statewide action.”

If you pre­fer see­ing imme­di­ate results to work­ing on a com­mit­tee, then involve­ment in the trench­es may be for you. In Ore­gon, SMART has been work­ing one-on-one with kids since 1992 to achieve read­ing pro­fi­cien­cy. Melis­sa Gibler writes about the pro­gram in Oregon’s States­man­Jour­nal. As she asks, “Why not spend your lunch break read­ing to kids once a week?”

The After­school Alliance is a web­site devot­ed to pro­gram­ming after school. On the America’s After­school Sto­ry­book page, you can read dozens of sto­ries about lit­er­a­cy vol­un­teers whose life expe­ri­ences have been deep­ened by their involve­ment in com­mu­ni­ty projects.

Focus­ing on fam­i­ly involve­ment in lit­er­a­cy will be the big push in the com­ing years. You’ll find libraries, schools, com­mu­ni­ty pro­grams, and lit­er­a­cy orga­ni­za­tions work­ing to bring all fam­i­ly mem­bers togeth­er to encour­age the many facets of lit­er­a­cy.

Sure­ly there’s a way for you to be involved?

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