Friday, March 25, 2011

Education - Budget Crossfire

Education Aid Caught in Budget Debate Crossfire
Education Week: 3.25.11 by Alyson Klein

As Congress faces an April 8 deadline to come up with a spending bill for the rest of the federal fiscal year, education advocates, states, and school districts remain anxious about what—and how much—may end up being cut from K-12 aid in any final deal.

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The vulnerability of education funding was clearly demonstrated in the stopgap measure signed into law March 2 . . . . . eliminated money for the:
$250 million Striving Readers program
$67 million Even Start Family Literacy program
$88 million Smaller Learning Communities program.
("Budget Cuts Raise Questions About Federal Commitment to Literacy," March, 16, 2011.)

The most recent extension of government funding, approved March 17, did not restore the support for those programs, and it made one new education-related cut: a $125 million career-pathways program in the U.S. Department of Labor.

Still, the House GOP’s longer-range intention appears clear: The budget bill passed by the House in February and later defeated in the Democratic-controlled Senate would have cut more than $5 billion from the Education Department, as well as $1 billion from Head Start, the federal preschool program for low-income children, operated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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Still, a number of smaller education programs are on shaky footing, including the $100 million Educational Technology State Grants. That initiative was slated for consolidation in the administration’s 2011 and 2012 budget requests—both of which sought to combine 38 smaller programs into 11 broader funding streams. It was also slated for elimination under a defeated Senate Democratic fiscal 2011 spending plan. ("Obama Seeks to Shelter Education in 2012 Budget," February 14, 2011.)

Other programs slated for consolidation under the president’s budget are also likely to face increased scrutiny from lawmakers looking for cuts, including the $19 million Literacy Through School Libraries program and the $119 million Teaching American History program. READ MORE !

Thursday, March 17, 2011

e-books and the "reading divide"

Technological changes may lead to "reading divide"
Reuters: 3.10.11 by Elaine Lies

TOKYO (Reuters) - The rapid rise of e-books could lead to a "reading divide" as those unable to afford the new technology are left behind, even as U.S. reading and writing skills decline still further.

At particular threat are African-American communities where many students are already falling behind their majority peers in terms of literacy, said award-winning writer Marita Golden -- and this despite the growing ranks of noted African-American writers, such as Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison.

"My biggest concern is that the technology will continue to widen the gap," she told Reuters. "It won't just be the digital divide but also a reading divide if reading becomes an activity that's now dependent on technology.

"If reading becomes dependent on technology that must be purchased, then I think we may see the literacy divide persist and even widen."

Years of discussion on the future of books amid the sweeping technological changes, along with a desire to make sure black writers were included in that discussion, prompted Golden to pull together her recent book, "The Word," in which African-American writers talk about how reading shaped their lives for the better. READ MORE !

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Literacy -A Bridge to Nowhere ?

Congress Decides Literacy is a Bridge to Nowhere
Huffington Post: 3.15.11 by Joseph Kahne

I'm told George Burns once said, "I've been reading so much about the dangers of smoking cigars, that I've finally decided... to give up reading."

Apparently, many in Congress find Burns' perspective compelling. House Republicans recently pushed through mid-year budget cuts that eliminate support for major literacy programs. One of the programs is called Reading is Fundamental (RIF). RIF costs taxpayers $24.5 million (that's 25 cents a year from every U.S. taxpayer) and it provides 4.4 million mostly low-income children with free books and programs to support their learning to read at over 17,000 locations across the country. Studies show the approach works.

Another of the programs whose budget would be zeroed out mid-year is the National Writing Project (NWP). It costs $25.6 million and it reaches 130,000 teachers and more than 1.4 million students in over 3,000 districts. Similarly, studies find that NWP promotes meaningful gains in writing performance. It does this by delivering professional development and by working with teacher leaders to develop high quality curriculum tailored to local communities' priorities and needs.

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Last year, Republicans used the power of the filibuster to ensure extension of tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans. Now they are demanding cuts that wipe out children's literacy programs in the name of fiscal responsibility. If the legislation isn't changed, Reading is Fundamental, the National Writing Project, and several other important literacy initiatives (like the Even Start Family Literacy Program) will close altogether or be crippled by massive cutbacks.

The real cost, of course, will be borne by our children.

This false bravado and careless policy must be stopped. Both Democrats and Republicans have supported these programs for more than 20 years. Many have already written letters, but much more action is needed to reverse this legislation. Contacting One's congressional representative is a good place to start.

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Will legislators act to save these programs? Perhaps it will help if we, their constituents, confront them with what their recent actions imply -- that reading isn't fundamental and that learning to write is a bridge to nowhere. READ MORE !

Monday, March 14, 2011

Jeff Carter: Illiteracy in the U.S.

An Interview with Jeff Carter: Illiteracy in the U.S.
Education News: 3.12.11 by Michael F. Shaughnessy,
Eastern New Mexico University

Michael F. Shaughnessy - I think as a society we place a high value on individual freedom, achievement, and competition. Unfortunately, this sometimes blinds us to issues of inequality and injustice.

Jeff Carter is ProLiteracy’s director of policy and government affairs.In this interview, he responds to questions about the issues surrounding illiteracy in the United States.

1) Jeff as you know, Obama has just delivered his state of the Union address and economically things are bad. What kind of governmental support can you expect for your literacy efforts?

The need for more adult literacy resources is great, (we estimate that federal and state funding combined provides adult literacy services to just 3% of those people who need it), and the impact that an investment in adult literacy would have on the economy is clear, but we still have a long way to go to help policymakers connect the dots between this issue and economic development.

But I think we are slowly turning a corner. Take, for example, President Obama’s goal that by 2020, all adult Americans will have committed to at least one year of higher education or career training, and the U.S. will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.

The President may not have intended it this way, but really, that is a call for increasing investment in adult education and literacy. Even if every state reached the same levels of high school graduation and college enrollment for high school graduates as the highest performing states do now, we will not come close to reaching his goal without a substantial effort to bring more adults who are out of school into postsecondary education. And to do that, we will need to invest in adult literacy.

3) What can the local public library do- or should they even be expected to play a role in remediation?

Our libraries many times are the first place that adults who need reading help could turn to for help. I think local libraries are a critical and under-appreciated resource. I live in Washington, D.C., and our neighborhood libraries are beacons for literacy — the most prominent physical reminder of the value we place on literacy that we have in many communities. And in practice, libraries are often used by volunteers to meet with students they are tutoring. I can envision public libraries taking on an even greater and more defined role as gateways for adult learners. Every public library in the country should have staff that are trained to counsel adult learners and help them identify literacy programs and other resources available to them either through the library or elsewhere in their vicinity.

4) I know there are costs to illiteracy- emotional, fiscal, business and industry. Could you review what you see as the main costs, and how they impact society?

This is an area where I think we still need to do more research, but some numbers are there for us already. For example, I’ve seen estimates that low health literacy costs between $106 billion and $238 billion each year in the U.S. Some contend that the effects of low literacy costs the U.S. $225 billion or more each year in non-productivity in the workforce, crime, and loss of tax revenue due to unemployment.

But the biggest cost is on our efforts to improve children’s academic achievement. Children raised in families with low educational achievement are much less likely to be successful in school. It’s a concern to us that we don’t focus more on adult education as a tool to strengthen families, and that we don’t talk about this issue in education policy as much as we talk about school reform. It’s possible that the investments we are making in school reform and pre-K education are going to be largely wasted as long as we ignore adult literacy. READ MORE !

Friday, March 11, 2011

Better World Books' LEAP Grant

Better World Books' LEAP
Literacy and Education in Action Program

Better World Books is inviting libraries to apply for between $5,000 and $25,000 to fund projects that address the literacy needs of underserved populations in your communities. A total of $75,000 is available.

The grant process is modeled after the California State Library's Pitch an Idea program and applications, in the form of a project overview, are due March 25. Projects must be implemented between May 16 and December 31, 2011.

Simplified Process
Interested libraries need only submit a short two page project overview and those with the best proposals will be selected for a 30 minute conversation where they will pitch their idea. After reviewing all of the pitches, Better World Books will select the winners whose projects are most viable and ready to go. Selected libraries will then be asked to complete a more detailed project plan in coordination with Better World Books. After project plans are complete, the grants will be awarded.

Selection Criteria
As you develop your Game Changing ideas, keep the following in mind:

~ Projects should address the literacy needs of under served populations in their community; literacy needs are defined broadly: identifying, understanding, interpreting, creating, communicating, and computing information to live a more fulfilling and productive life

~ Projects must be implemented between 5/16/11 – 12/31/11

~ Libraries may pitch multiple projects or a single project totaling no more than $25,000 and no less that $5,000

~ Libraries can present up to two Game Changing ideas, but only one idea per library will be chosen

~Each Game Changing idea must be fully supported by the Director and/or Library Administration

~ Projects that involve partnerships with local government agencies are highly encouraged

~Projects that will have a measurable and long term impact on an under served population, and will continue to operate after grant funds have been utilized, will be looked upon favorably

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

World Read Aloud Day: March 9

World Read Aloud Day: March 9, 2011

Celebrate the Power of Words and Stories
and Take Action for Global Literacy

Nearly 1 billion people entered the 21st century unable to read a book or sign their name. What would you miss most if you could not read or write? Imagine your world without words.

World Read Aloud Day is about taking action to show the world that the right to read and write belongs to all people. World Read Aloud Day motivates children, teens, and adults worldwide to celebrate the power of words, especially those words that are shared from one person to another, and creates a community of readers advocating for every child’s right to a safe education and access to books and technology. By raising our voices together on this day we show the world’s children that we support their future: that they have the right to read, to write, and to share their words to change the world.

Across the globe nearly 171 million children could be lifted out of poverty if they left school with basic reading and writing skills. Quality literacy education is the difference between life and death, prosperity and despair. This is literacy for survival.

Read On @ Your Local Library: CalCat or WorldCat

Bedtime Stories/Read-Alouds - Library Book Lists
DaddyRead: the guide to great read-aloud books
E.B. White Read Aloud Awards
Jim Trelease “Read Aloud Handbook”
Read Aloud America – Building Families of Lifetime Readers
Share a Story – Shape a Future – Read Aloud Resources

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Literacy Tribune: March 2011

Literacy Tribune: March 2011
The Adult Learner Network Newsletter

United Literacy, a non-profit organization, provides resources and support to adult literacy learners in the United States. Its aim is to make literacy education accessible and worthwhile for adult learners.

Main Story: Are you at risk for cardiovascular disease?
By Ruth Pereira, MPH, CHES, Health Program Coordinator

A History Lesson: César Chávez
By Cathay Reta, Senior Writer
“Sí, Se Puede,” is the slogan made famous by labor union activist César Chávez

Finance Literacy: Earned Income Tax Credit – Check It Out
By Cathay Reta, Senior Writer
It’s tax time again! The April 15 deadline is almost here

Organization Spotlight: Alaska Literacy Program
By Cathay Reta, Senior Writer

Technology Watch: Nook Color Tablet
By Daniel Pedroza, Writer and Learner
Thinking of purchasing an electronic book (e-Book) to read on your smart phone?

The Literacy Tribune is looking for adult learner writers.
Are you an adult learner ?
Do you want to write ?
Do you want to publish your writing ?

You can write about:
Your road to literacy
Your literacy organization
Literacy resources you like

You can write book reviews, poetry, short stories
You can write articles about health, finance, or technology
You can write just about anything !

Thursday, March 3, 2011

A Race to the Bottom

Obama Signs Short-Term Budget Bill That Slashes Education
Education Week: 3.02.11 by Alyson Klein

Federal funding for literacy eliminated:
House: 335 – 91
Senate: 91 – 9
Signed by the President

$250 million Striving Readers program
$66 million Even Start family-literacy program
$25 million Reading Is Fundamental program
$26 million National Writing Project
$64 million Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnerships (LEAP) program

The overall package is intended to keep the government running for two more weeks while lawmakers and the White House continue to negotiate a budget plan. The cuts will affect funding for the current fiscal year, which began last October. (Yes, it's fair to say Congress is a little behind schedule.) READ MORE !

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Support American Libraries

The Library is America's last truly socialized institution and you're about to lose it 2.28.11 by Democrats Ramshield
(Written by an American expat living in the European Union)

Did you know that the library is America's last truly socialized institution and that everyday you come a bit closer to losing it! As a male who is a business librarian, (that is to say someone who holds graduate degrees in library science and an MBA degree in marketing), I understand very well that fee for service in America's library systems are creating a class of information have-nots. For some of you this means that your children aren't going to be able to read as well. It also means that as voters in a democracy, you will no longer be as well informed without full library services. As the series, the American dream vs the European dream which I was able to generously publish with the support of the Daily Kos community, we have seen that we cannot depend on the plutocrat owned radio and television media. Sometimes we have to go to print sources, even international print sources of the variety and scope that you can't possibly afford as an individual to subscribe to them all. Additionally libraries make online databases available to their patrons that allow you with the touch of a button to read international media sources from around the globe. You're in the process of losing this all and a lot more.

Now let's ask why should you be interested in defending America's last truly socialized institution? Well, let's get down to it shall we? So you don't think the library is a completely socialized institution. Well, let's talk about the theory of a library for just one minute, which is everyone who walks in the door and holds a library card has access completely to the same services. It doesn't matter if they're the mayor or a homeless person. Everyone in the library is supposed to be treated the same. It is the one place in America where equality doesn't just get lip service. The American Library Association has produced a wonderful statement called the Freedom to Read Statement wherein it is believed that your freedom to read comes directly from the first amendment of the constitution of the United States. You're about to lose that and that's pretty darn important.

You can think of the library as a repository of everyone who has ever thought and everyone who has ever written! That's a lot to lose access to.

Now we know that by in large, we are not really in tight budget times at all but rather we know that a lot states have ran up artificial deficits just like in Wisconsin wherein they give tax breaks to wealthy individuals and corporations and then try to balance the budget on the backs of working class Americans and their unions. So it is that library systems all over America are running out of money and this is in danger of tearing the guts out of the last truly socialized institution in America, where everyone is supposed to be equal and it is in danger of creating a division in the population of the information haves and have-nots.

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Literacy among adults and children in the information age is the lynch pin to education, retraining and full employment. No institution in America does more to support literacy than your friendly neighborhood library. I'm not just talking about story hour and reading programs for children but serious efforts in supporting young adults and working adults literacy and continued education efforts. Let's understand that there is a strong correlation between literacy rates and crime. That is say that most people in America and there are over 2 million of them who are in jails and prisons traditionally suffer from low literacy rates. Why is it that America can find plenty of money for prisons but has problems in finding money for libraries? All of this is to say nothing of the staggering lost of human potential of the American prison population. In fact we have about as many people in prison as we do have in the military. Oh yes and did you know that most American military manuals are written at the 9th grade reading level? Did you also know that there are millions of Americans today who cannot read this diary because they are functionally illiterate? Now we start to understand what it is that America is losing, when it is losing the last truly socialized institution in America.

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This diary encourages you to support your local library by writing a letter to the editor today and telling them why it is that you support libraries, that you support literacy and that you support intellectual freedom for both authors and readers. Also please consider joining your friends of the libraries group. We need everyone's help to defend the last fully socialized institution in America which is your local library.

Thank you for your support of American libraries.

(Finally it should be noted that the famous philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, who in the minds of many was a noted socialist set up libraries all over America.) READ MORE !