Secrets of a Scrabble Goddess
The first year I played at the Literacy Council Scrabble Tournament, someone handed my mom and I a little green sticker before the games started. “Scrabble Goddess” the sticker read. Mom probably deserved it more than I did. She has a vocabulary twice the size of mine. And if she happens to not know a word, she can usually figure it out by entomology. She took Latin in high school. Root words are easy for her. Either way it puts me at a distinct disadvantage when playing Scrabble with her. In any case, we are both lovers of words, books, and Scrabble. Goddesses, I don’t about, but I sure wanted to live up to that title.
When we first heard about the Literacy Council Scrabble tournament, it changed our game. I was a volunteer Literacy Council tutor then. It was the first year of the Literacy Council Scrabble fundraiser (2005) and there was something intriguing about the rules of the game. For the fundraiser, the Literacy Council was offering team play. Four people work together to build the highest scoring board possible. Instead of choosing your next letters out of a little velvet bag, ALL the letters are face up. Playing on teams gave Mom and me, plus my brother and his girlfriend, a chance to join forces, create strategies and make spectacular words.
Maybe playing in the tournament for 13 years doesn’t make me a Scrabble Goddess, but we have won a couple times over the year. So I’m giving away my secrets, a few anyway. Why? Because I want everyone to have as much fun at the Literacy Council Scrabble Tournament as my family has over the years.
Here are three secrets for scoring big at the Literacy Council tournament
I’m encouraging the Scrabble Goddess in everyone to register to play this year at the 13th Annual Scrabble Tournament. It’s for a good cause, there are some wonderful prizes thanks to local businesses, great food thanks to the local Altrusa group, and it’s just plain fun to play board games in the middle of winter. Call or go online to register. 419-223-0252 https://www.limaliteracy.net/scrabble.html
These are the cards you drew. You’ve just come back from the service with PTSD. You don’t have a job. You’ve enrolled at the community college and you’re living with your aunt and uncle. He has a drug problem and lost his job. She cleans houses and is about ready to leave him. No one makes enough money to cover the basics: food, clothing, housing, and healthcare.
Those were the cards my “family” drew at the Cost of Poverty Experience (COPE) a couple months ago. Four people from our office attended the experience hosted by the Goodwill Easter Seals.
The design of the training was that the 50 or so participants were divided into families. Their situations, needs, and income were printed on cards in an envelope. Each 15-minute "session" was a scramble to get the bills paid, find a job, go to school, etc. There were several community service tables like a grocery store, police station, welfare center and a pawn shop, set up to assist. The goal was for the families to make it through the month, or four sessions, without losing their home, going hungry or even going to jail. The real goal was to get as close to the experience of poverty as possible so the participants (many of whom work for local social agencies) could experience the challenges their clients may face regularly.
For me and my coworkers, it was eye-opening. Sparse resources forced us to explain ourselves and plead with the community service groups for help. The time limits put us in frustrating positions. One participant who lost their home and stayed at a shelter ended up having to wear a sticker with big red letters “Bed Bugs.” At times it seemed there was no way out. I even felt physically tense. A debriefing session followed the experience. We had the chance to share stories and reflect on our decisions. We related our experiences in the game to the problems many of us see each day with our own clients.
I would encourage anyone, not just those working with low-income individuals, to take part in a COPE session. It’s well-designed and will probably give you a new perspective on the panhandlers you may see at certain intersections in Lima.
Here's your chance to participate in COPE
There’s another training coming up Saturday at St. Mark’s Methodist Church. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m January 27, a re-entry edition of COPE will engage people in the struggles of those involved in the criminal justice system. To register call St. Mark’s at 419-222-3601.
http://www.limaohio.com/news/277546/st-marks-united-methodist-church-offers-cost-of-poverty-experience-event. (Note the date has changed to January 27 since the news article was published).
...because who doesn't like a good end-of-year listicle?
Really I’m writing this list/article because as a non-profit organization, we need to. It’s really important to keep track of what is working, what is not working, student progress, etc. We also thought those who support us would like to know how we’re doing. We rely on support of the community to keep us going and we take the stewardship of their donations very seriously. Here’s what we’ve accomplished and why we need your continued support to teach adults to read.
6. We paid off the mortgage on our beautiful building this year. In the Spring of 2018, the Literacy Council celebrates 10 years in one location! Before that, our agency rented spaces in no less than seven places over the previous several years. It’s good to have a permanent home and have it paid off. As our director, Ken, always tells visitors, “We couldn’t have done it alone. We had a lot of help over the years.”
5. The place keeps getting better and better. For one, this year a local artist, (and our very own tutor!) Jay Longmeier, unveiled an impressive canvas mural of a Lima Locomotive that provides the backdrop for our front office. A second impressive improvement is the Art Park that Husky helped us move from downtown to our side yard. Flowers, a garden path, benches, a tool shed and five uniquely Lima works of art decorate the previously unused space. You won’t regret stopping by just to see these two improvements.
4. Also this year, we celebrated 30 years of teaching adults to read. So many students and so many volunteers later, we feel we’ve made a difference in the community. We’ve created a space where students have earned their GEDs, gone on to college and gained employment. Students have passed the citizenship test. Students have registered to vote and signed up for library cards for the very first time.
3. We increased the number of new students and the number of volunteer tutors this year. By the end of last year we had enrolled 15 new adult literacy students. This year that number is up again, with 23 new students. And thanks to our volunteer social media specialist, Robert Rose, and our office manager Connie Glancy, we’ve trained a total of 15 new tutors. And we have several more on the waitlist for training.
2. Our office finally developed an online student intake and progress tracking system this year. This is big! We used to do all the tracking by hand, counting student hours and volunteer hours with tick marks. Student progress was locked in individual folders. Now we have online forms, spreadsheets and charts. It’s not a perfect system yet, but this data has to make us better at building the best program we can.
1. Two new employees joined our cause. For years, the Northwest Ohio Literacy Council has collaborated with Pathstone (formerly Experience Works), to employ seniors in our office. The employees get the chance to build their skills and resumes, and our non-profit benefits by having another helping hand in the office. This year it’s been a pleasure to welcome Sue and Melvin to our team. They are tutoring, answering phones, and reaching out in the community to help us find even more adults struggling with literacy.
Here's your chance to help us continue our work
As this year closes and another one begins, we are grateful for the opportunity to teach adults to read. We are fortunate for our volunteers and financial supporters And we are hopeful that one day illiteracy will be eliminated. As a friend of literacy, please consider supporting the Northwest Ohio Literacy Council with a small donation.
Use this link https://www.paypal.me/kblanchard563 to donate electronically.
Or if you prefer, mail a check to:
Northwest Ohio Literacy Council
563 W. Spring St.
Lima, OH 45801
What's in a name?
So many agencies in the area talk about partnerships and collaborations. I think we have one of the best partnerships! We are a longtime Lima non-profit working with a state and federally-funded adult education program. But together, the seven of us, work together as one resource to improve the education of adults in the community. You could walk into the office any day and be met with a smiling face that wants to help.
Since the sign out front was erected a few years ago, there have been a couple name changes. The name of the state-funded ABLE (Adult Basic Literacy and Education) program changed, most recently to Lima City Schools Aspire Adult Education and Career Pathways. I know, that’s a mouthful. But our work is the same, and getting better and more focused on the community needs every year. Along with several GED instructors and volunteer tutors, our partnership is united in our goals, namely:
Don’t be confused by names, we’re here in Lima to help. We’re the best kept secret, hidden in plain sight or even a rose by another name. Just see for yourself at our joint website LimaLiteracy.net where you can watch a touching GED student success story, refer a student for our services, or even comment on this blog!
Eight months ago, almost to the day, Mary* walked through the doors at the Literacy Council and asked for help. By the following week, she was meeting with one of our seasoned volunteer tutors every Tuesday.
Many people in our community may have wondered what they need to do to get help at the Literacy Council. The first step, and maybe the most difficult, is walking through the door and asking that question. We take care of it from there. We interview the student, ask them about their goals, administer an adult literacy test and work on finding the right tutor and right learning plan for them. The second step, also just as difficult, is showing up for every session. Being persistent is the key. That’s what Mary does. Every Tuesday I know she’s here because I hear Mary and her tutor, Aleta, laughing and learning in the Blue Room, just down the hall from me.
Mary’s goal on day one was to get her GED. And starting at a second grade reading level did not discourage her. Mary’s persistence has paid off. Eight months later (last week), she took the adult literacy test again. We were all thrilled to see her score: seventh grade reading level! Besides Mary, no one was more thrilled than Aleta! Congratulations to both. They did something wonderful together. Our volunteer tutors give the gift of their time and patience and are rewarded with success stories like Mary’s. What our tutors do is an amazing, selfless act that’s good for the student, our organization and the community.
We know there are many, many more people like Mary in our community that could really succeed with the help of a one-on-one tutoring. We also know there are many more people in the community who are being called to teach other adults to read. Everytime I hold a tutor training session at the Literacy Council I hear it. I said it myself when I took tutor training 12 years ago.
“Teaching someone to read is just something I’ve always wanted to do.”
And that’s all it really takes. The Literacy Council will hold a tutor training tomorrow, 2-4 p.m. November 15 at 563 W. Spring Street. If you’ve ever thought about teaching another adult to read, please call ahead at 419-223-0252 to register for the training. Or email me, Becky at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions.
To be a literacy tutor...
Other than awesome carry-in lunches, one of the things my coworkers do best is proofread. We do this all the time for each other. Because one of the worst things about writing (a grant, a press release, even this blog) is editing. And we never see our own mistakes. Grammar is one of those really tricky things. I mean why is “carry-in” hyphenated and “coworker” is not? English, in general, is pretty "flustrating." Sometimes it seems easier to just make it up. For inspiration, watch this funny TED Talk where lexicographer (dictionary writer), Erin McKean, says making words up keeps our language alive.
Even still, at the office, we need to sound educated, especially when we call ourselves educators! So we all need spell-check. But we also know it probably won’t catch a homophone like compliment/complement. My tip: I also use a really helpful tool for grammar checks called Grammarly. You basically add an extension to your browser and it watches what you type for grammar and spelling problems. Or you can just copy and paste right into the Grammarly website. If I type the the word “the” twice, the tool lets me know. I’d say that tool catches most of my writing flubs. But when it comes to content and context, my coworkers are still the best.
But what about our English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) students? I’ve heard our students say English is so difficult to learn. I’ve heard our tutors say it can be hard to teach. I believe them both. I’ve taught English and know the challenges. Idioms are one of the worst for ESOL students. For example, “By the skin of your teeth” is really gross when translated literally. At the Literacy Council, we do have some resources for teaching ESOL students. But we could always use more. One book that our newest volunteer tutor and board member, Nelly Smith, recommended is called Grammar Dimensions. And Nelly should know what works! English is not her first language, but she’s certified to teach English as a second language, is a private English tutor, speaks at least three languages and is hoping to pick up some Arabic from her new students at the Literacy Council. (Yes, we got lucky with her!) Nelly has her own copy of the book and workbook that she’s using with her students. We’d like to have a copy on our shelves too.
This is where you can help. People often ask the Literacy Council if we need books. YES, books make us happy! So we’ve started an Amazon wish list with the books and supplies that we feel would be most useful for our students and tutors. Check out our list here: Lima Literacy Amazon Wish List. If you already shop Amazon for Christmas gifts, household items, and electronics, consider adding a book from our wish list and donating it to us! As always we’re grateful for your support.
October 13th, 2017
So what was really going on? Lori, who is part of a market research group, asked the Literacy Council if she could meet with several of our students who struggle with reading. She met with our students individually and had them read instructions for how to apply a cream that is going from a prescription medication to over-the-counter. The whole point was to make sure the directions were clear enough for the general public. This research is a requirement by the Federal Drug Administration. The standard practice for over the counter medication instructions to be written at a 4th to 5th grade reading level. “The FDA found that consumers thought words like "indications," "precautions," and "contraindications" were confusing and not easily understood.” Think about that! And that’s the whole point of Health Literacy month - to promote the importance of understandable health information and the use of plain language.
Plain language, that’s something I can get behind. Even if you don’t struggle with reading, there are plenty of ways to get confused about health information. Have you ever tried to read those instruction sheets that come all folded up with your prescriptions? You either need five hands to unfold them or a magnifying glass to read them. Or try reading the fine print of your health insurance plan - PPO, EOB, stop-loss, indemnity insurance. It’s easy to get confused when making such a big decision.
That’s where the Literacy Council comes in for those who do struggle with reading. In addition to basic reading literacy, the Literacy Council is works with students with many kinds of literacy, including financial literacy, computer literacy, and quantitative literacy. Because in the United States there are still 36 million adults who can’t read at a third grade level.
We think Illiteracy of any kind sucks. But health literacy could be a matter of life and death. Can you imagine trying to give your child medicine but not being able to read the directions properly? How about understanding blood sugar levels or signs of infection after a surgery? If the directions are not in plain language, those 36 million people with reading difficulties, can suffer. The Literacy Council is happy to be a part of the effort promoting health literacy because it matters to the students we serve everyday. We’re also proud to be a part, even if a small part, of helping researchers make the directions on drug label more readable.
If you know someone who needs help reading, visit our website to see how we can help. You can find our referral form here. http://www.limaliteracy.net/literacy-council-referral-page.html
Did you notice it?
It may have gone unnoticed last week during Adult Education and Family Literacy Week. There were some great things going on at the Literacy Council. For one, at Mayor Berger’s Press briefing last Wednesday our director, Ken Blanchard, said something people may have missed. He addressed it in a letter to the editor in the Lima News. But also this month, the Literacy Council not only got a new art park thanks to volunteers from a Husky team, but the council also received a major donation from two community business partners. Husky Energy and Potash. The donations respectively keep a tutor on the payroll and help pay off the mortgage on our office. And we can’t thank them enough for helping us keep doing our work with adult students.
So, why did two of the largest corporations in Lima donate to us? For one thing, they know us. And they know what we do. They trust us and they think Literacy in Lima is as is important as we do.
Or did you notice this? The release of the ALICE report (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) yesterday by the United Way of Greater Lima highlighted this large group of people within our community that are working but still struggling to make ends meet. (Lima Allen County comes in at 31% in poverty, and 15.5% unemployment!) Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, this population also comprises our target population of low literate readers and those that have no high school diploma, or worse, a diploma but still fall in the 1 in 6 in our community that read at a third grade level or below. These are the people we serve. You will be hearing a lot more about the ALICE report and what we and all of the United Way agencies are doing to impact and improve the next report, and more importantly, the people and families behind the report.
What one person can do
The Literacy Council is always looking for volunteers to help with our efforts. Primarily, that is done by becoming a tutor for another adult. The only requirement to become a tutor is the desire to share the love of reading with another. If that is not possible, consider a donation to the Literacy Council. Any amount is deeply appreciated in our efforts to help all of our fellow citizens.
To learn how to donate, how to become a tutor or just to show your support, email email@example.com.
Literacy Council Contest
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!
Practicing what we preach
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.
Literacy advocate working for the Northwest Ohio Literacy Council and the Lima City Schools Adult Education and Career Pathways program