A 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?