It was on a road trip. That’s when I read my favorite book. Maybe it was the magic of traveling, the hum of the road or something else. The book was Walk Two Moons, by Sharon Creech. It’s a children’s book, a Newberry Award winner, and a wonderful tale about a young traveler. Salamanca travels from Ohio to Idaho in search of her lost mother. The story is deep, funny, and touching for any age. That’s not why it’s my favorite book though. It’s my favorite because I read it with my family. Walk Two Moons was a family read-aloud when my children were 10 and 4. My husband was driving so I became the designated narrator. When it got too dark to read one evening, the kids begged me to keep reading. As Salamanca traveled, so did we. As Salamanca learned and changed, so did we. We talked about the book during the day and the kids asked me questions about it before bed. Reading it during our own journey made it the perfect situation for teaching my kids to love reading. Towards the end of the book, I was reading along and I just stopped, barely able to keep my voice steady as I read Salamanca’s final realization. Tears ran down my cheek, I looked over to my husband in the driver’s seat and just barely caught him “wiping something out of his eye.” The kids in the back, confused by my pause, started chanting “One more chapter!”
So what can you do today to support literacy in Lima? Do what I did. Tell us about your favorite book. For Adult Education and Family Literacy week we’ve come up with a contest for anyone in the community to enter. Enter “What is your favorite book?” for a chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card. Word count should be around 250 words. Deadline is October 21. We’ll announce the winner, and share their story Oct. 31. Enter the contest by emailing me, Becky, at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line: “My favorite book.”
I can’t wait to hear from you!
The big event at the office today is practicing what we preach. We’ve used email, Facebook messenger word of mouth to invite everyone we know to tell our legislators to support adult education. So today three people from our office will attend Mayor Berger’s weekly press briefing. We’ll talk about Adult Education and Family Literacy week, the Literacy Council serving the community for 30 years, and the desperate need in our community for everyone, including our federal, state and local officials to get behind this. Because an educated community is a BIG deal.
So what can you do today to support Adult Education? First, click here, scroll down and click the “Take Action” button. Here’s how it works: Once you enter your information, the form generates an email that will be sent from you to your representatives. It’s as easy as that to get your voice heard.
The second thing you can do this week is to inform yourself about the adult education crisis. I estimate it will take you two minutes and 27 seconds to read the following post from the Educate and Elevate campaign.
America is at a crossroads.
We need every person in our nation ready to contribute to America’s competitiveness.
Our 55,000+ adult education leaders stand united in a national campaign to move learning opportunities forward for all Americans to achieve economic mobility. If we educate, then we elevate–our students, workers, businesses and our economic growth. Investing in Adult Education is good for the economy. It’s an investment in America’s economic engine - - we reach adults who struggle with literacy, numeracy, and problem solving getting them into the workforce pipeline so they can contribute to a company’s bottom line. Everyone needs a return on their investment. Whether it’s the U.S. companies investing in their workforce, the workers investing their time and energy learning in-demand skills, or funders that want to ensure their investments are moving the economy forward. Adult Education is a smart investment. We need all available workers ready to help our country compete.
How Adult Education is Uniquely Situated to Address the Needs of U.S. Employers
By 2020, the American Action Forum projects that the United States will be short an estimated 7.5 million private sector workers across all skill levels. Adult Education brings businesses options by preparing existing workers with families and competing life responsibilities with the skills that companies need through flexible classrooms and curriculum.
How Adult Education Addresses the Skills Gap
In a recent survey, 92% of business leaders thought that U.S. workers were not as skilled as they needed to be. And they are probably right. By 2018, 63% of all U.S. jobs will require education beyond high school. Yet, nearly half of the U.S. workforce—about 88 million of 188 million adults aged 18 to 64—has only a high school education or less, and/or low English proficiency. Educating motivated students with the skills that companies need provides qualified candidates for hard to fill positions.
How Adult Education Increases Business Productivity
Our nation’s competitiveness declines when talent shortages negatively impact businesses’ productivity and innovation. Companies miss out on growth opportunities, product development suffers, and profits stagnate without a skilled national workforce. America needs an “all hands on deck” approach to bring every available worker to the labor pool.
How Better Educated Populations Strengthen Communities
Educating adults creates stronger communities. Higher education levels are correlated with lower rates of chronic diseases like diabetes and asthma, and a mother’s education level is the highest determinate of a child’s academic success. Adult Education makes communities safer too. Inmate participation in adult education reduced recidivism by 29%.
How Adult Education Decreases Reliance On Government Support
The employment rate for young workers, as late as 2015, without a high school degree or equivalent stands in stark contrast to the national employment rate, with slightly less than half in full time employment. In contrast, adults with a high school degree were more likely to work full time and average 20% higher earnings ($30,000) well above the poverty line for a family of 4.
Depression, stroke, hunger, food poisoning, unemployment, high school dropout - so what’s the common thread? Well, chances are you’re familiar with at least one of these things. That’s because advocates for these problems claim the “one in six” statistic. You know, one in six people have depression, one in six people have faced unemployment, etc. “One in six” is the mantra at the Literacy Council too. The numbers are hard to come by because of the stigma of illiteracy, but we can safely say that one in six adults struggles with reading. Take a minute to think about what that means for our community.
The first person I met who couldn’t read was years ago. I had just started as a volunteer tutor at the Literacy Council. Even during my training to become a literacy tutor, I couldn’t imagine there were people who couldn’t read. I was pretty sure I’d never met anyone who couldn’t. Reading had played such a big role in my growing up. My parents read to me. I would sneak books during naptime. I read all the vampire books as a teenager. I joined a book club in my 20s that still meets monthly. And when I got pregnant with my first child, my first stop was the library.
So who are these people who can’t read? My first student, Brian*, was a little younger than me, a high school graduate who wanted to go to college. Brian wanted to become an auto mechanic. We met weekly at the Lima Public Library where we’d work through car magazine articles. I read to him and he would follow along, sparking all kinds of ideas about the engines, valves, and cylinders. I could barely keep up. He knew so much about something I knew so little about. That’s the thing that got me and still does about our students at the Literacy Council. They have experiences, goals, and skills that I only wish I had. Like our student Arthur's skills, for example. (See video below.)
Amazing, right? But the thing that happened with my student, Brian, was that he just stopped showing up. I never knew if it was me, or something I said. But he just didn’t show up anymore. Over time I’ve learned that this is the case many times with adult learners. Life gets in the way. The whole experience didn’t discourage me though. In fact, those few meetings taught me something pretty big. People who struggle with reading, struggle with many parts of life. The mom who can’t find a sitter for two hours a day so she can attend GED class. The young man on probation trying to find work just to buy food. The older gentleman who can’t see well enough to get a driver's license. The domestic violence victim who works so much she doesn’t have time for education. I see this every day, and my heart goes out to them for their courage to walk through our door and say, “I need help.” They are the “one in six” in many other ways. And that’s exactly the reason I go to work every day.
Yesterday, I posted a blog about the Literacy Council house and why you should visit our beautiful, old, possibly-haunted home. Today I’m telling you why I work there and what we do. Today, during Adult Education and Family Literacy Week, I’m asking you to simply look around. Who do you see that might be that one in six who struggles with reading?
Then, to show your support for Literacy in Lima, subscribe to our mailing list here https://goo.gl/u8E59Q Or in the subscription box below. We won’t share your email or spam you. We'll send out a quick email about once a week.
For many years the building where I work went unnoticed. Maybe it still does. But I think that’s just because some people can’t (or don’t want to) imagine what goes on inside. The Northwest Ohio Literacy Council sits near the corner of Metcalf and Spring streets in Lima. It’s one of those beautiful old homes, built in 1903 by Clair and Lulu Tolan, a wealthy local couple, who valued hand-made art, stained glass, ornately carved woodwork, custom wallpaper and extraordinary attention to detail. Experts in historical design have described the house as “a cultural treasure for Lima and Allen County.” Yet somehow this museum-caliber home is still unknown to many.
So every day for more than four years I’ve gone into work and been immersed in this treasure. In the morning I climb a grand oak staircase to an office in what used to be a bedroom. I meet with students, update our website and help plan fundraisers. Later I go back down to heat up my lunch in the kitchen, passing two or three fireplaces and through one of the four sets of pocket doors in the house. I often walk through the pantry, where we happen to keep office supplies. But you know, sometimes I think the charm of the place has even worn off on me. If I took a second to look around I’d see not just the copier, but a work of art. Wooden pantry cabinets stretch to the 10-foot ceilings and a cute little roll up wooden window connects the pantry to the dining room. From the kitchen table you can imagine house servants passing dinner through to the Tolan family. But usually these details escape me as I’m sitting there on my iPhone, eating my soup.
So what does go on inside? For starters, there’s the ghost.
From what we understand, Lulu Tolan still calls 563 W. Spring Street her home. It’s documented, too. Author James Willis and his team camped out overnight in the house after hearing the stories coming out of the Literacy Council House. Willis is the founder of Ghosts of Ohio, a nationally recognized paranormal research organization that uses scientific and historic methods to investigate and document reported hauntings in the state of Ohio. Lulu and the Literacy Council even secured an entire chapter in Willis’ latest book, Ohio’s Historic Haunts.
See for yourself the first two weekends in October when the Downtown Lima Lantern Tours make a stop at the Literacy Council in search of our shadowy residents. If you’re lucky, there might still be tickets left for the tour. But if they’re sold out, I can make you another offer.
This week the Literacy Council and our in-office partner, Lima City Schools Aspire, celebrate 30 years of serving the Lima area community, 10 years in our “haunted” Spring Street home, and National Adult Education and Family Literacy Week #AEFLWeek. We are extending an open invitation to the entire community to visit our amazing home, to look around, and to meet our director Ken Blanchard, who revived the house with his own hands turning this undiscovered gem into a community resource. Stop by during office hours 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Just tell us you want to have a look around.
Don’t let us go unnoticed any longer.