Friday, May 27, 2011

Literacy: About More Than Reading & Jobs

Literacy is about a lot more than reading and jobs
San Francisco Chronicle: May 26, 2011 by Caille Millner

Recently I was invited to speak at a fundraiser for Jumpstart, a national nonprofit organization that focuses on developing literacy in low-income preschool children. Literacy is an important topic to me for many reasons. Americans are obsessed with educational budget cuts and government austerity right now, but the potential victims of all this big talk - a generation of under-educated children - could suffer in even larger ways than just their job prospects.

I was an unusual child in that I never got any instruction in literacy myself. That was because I taught myself to read at the age of 3. It was my only moment of genius, believe me.

But as it happens, I knew someone who spent his entire life without being literate. That person was my grandfather, who's now passed. There were so many things that my grandfather couldn't do, of course. Newspapers, novels, children's stories, letters. All things that I love.

He developed some pretty admirable ways to cope with these limitations - instead of spending the mornings with a newspaper, for instance, he'd spend the evenings with the radio. He asked other people to write down his letters - my mother did this for him a lot when she was a child.

But one of the important things about literacy is that it gives you a sense of life's possibilities beyond just survival.


To get back to the idea of understanding life's possibilities through literacy - when you can read, you can read other people's stories. You can step into other people's lives, other people's existences. And when that happens, your own world expands. My grandfather, for example, never knew anything about the world outside of his own state, his own county, his own porch.


So helping children become literate is our patriotic duty. They'll be better citizens, of course, because they can think critically and vote accordingly. They'll have richer and fuller personal lives because they can understand other people. And they'll be able to participate in the life of this country in a way that's constructive, positive and informed. READ MORE !

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Future of the Library

The future of the library
What is a public library for?
Seth’s Blog: 5.17.11

First, how we got here:

Before Gutenberg, a book cost about as much as a small house. As a result, only kings and bishops could afford to own a book of their own.

This naturally led to the creation of shared books, of libraries where scholars (everyone else was too busy not starving) could come to read books that they didn't have to own. The library as warehouse for books worth sharing.

Only after that did we invent the librarian.

The librarian isn't a clerk who happens to work at a library. A librarian is a data hound, a guide, a sherpa and a teacher. The librarian is the interface between reams of data and the untrained but motivated user.

After Gutenberg, books got a lot cheaper. More individuals built their own collections. At the same time, though, the number of titles exploded, and the demand for libraries did as well. We definitely needed a warehouse to store all this bounty, and more than ever we needed a librarian to help us find what we needed. The library is a house for the librarian.


The next library is a place, still. A place where people come together to do co-working and coordinate and invent projects worth working on together. Aided by a librarian who understands the Mesh, a librarian who can bring domain knowledge and people knowledge and access to information to bear.


We need librarians more than we ever did. What we don't need are mere clerks who guard dead paper. Librarians are too important to be a dwindling voice in our culture. For the right librarian, this is the chance of a lifetime. READ MORE !

SETH GODIN has written thirteen books that have been translated into more than thirty languages. He writes about the post-industrial revolution, the way ideas spread, marketing, quitting, leadership and most of all, changing everything.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Times in Plain English

The Times in Plain English

A new newspaper for adult learners that has important news from America’s best sources of information. The writing is in clear, readable English.

The stories with links to the full articles come from these newspapers:

Arizona Republic
Los Angeles Times
Miami Herald
New York Times
Wall Street Journal
Washington Post

Topics Include:

In Brief
Money & Work
New York
Of Interest

The editor of The Times in Plain English is Arthur Schiff, the publisher of City Family magazine published in New York in the 1990′s.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Learning To Read: How Young is Too Young ?

Learning to Read: How Young is Too Young?
Huffington Post: 5.12.11 by Lisa Guernsey

Should reading be taught in first grade or in kindergarten?
Maybe preschool?
How about even younger?

Most literacy researchers agree that there's a limit to how young you can go and that in infancy and toddlerhood it makes no sense to try to start formal reading instruction. Don't tell that to Janet Doman, director of a small organization called the Institutes for Achievement of Human Potential in Philadelphia. Doman is trying to spread the idea that the process of learning to read can start in babyhood.

She suggests that parents train their babies by holding up cards with words written in large letters while speaking the words. Her father, Glenn Doman, is the Institutes' founder and co-author of a decades-old, self-published book, How to Teach Your Baby to Read.

To serious researchers, the Domans' ideas are disturbingly devoid of any basis in mainstream science and appear to rely entirely on anecdotal evidence. Yet among many parents and some childcare providers, the notion of very early reading is taking hold nevertheless.


Kathy Hirsh-Pasek and Roberta Golinkoff, two nationally recognized developmental psychologists who co-wrote, with Diane Eyer, the acclaimed book Einstein Never Used Flashcards, have been urging parents to recognize the simple power of conversational moments with young children instead of drilling them on vocabulary words. READ MORE !

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Journey Into Dyslexia: Alan and Susan Raymond

Alan and Susan Raymond
HBO Documentary (see schedule)

Academy-Award winning filmmakers Alan and Susan Raymond examine the complexities of this differently structured brain and debunk the myths and misperceptions about dyslexia.

Dyslexia is a specific leaning disability that is neurobiological in origin and typically manifests through difficulty in reading, writing, spelling and math. It has nothing to do with intelligence, birth defects, or a mental illness of any kind, the home environment, level of education or economic status.

Dyslexia persists throughout one's lifetime and is prevalent in every culture in the world. In the U.S. it affects as much as 10% of the population.

Surprisingly, however, Journey into Dyslexia reveals that many adult professionals who once struggled to learn in school consider their dyslexia a unique gift and the defining reason behind their success.

Because of its hidden characteristics, dyslexia is often misunderstood and misidentified. To qualify for accommodations in school or the workplace, a person must be identified through psychological testing.

Alan and Susan Raymond visited schools throughout the U.S. that have programs specifically designed for different ways of learning. These schools focus on programs where students are effectively taught to read and learn compensatory skills to manage their deficits. They talk with students from elementary age to college, teachers, researchers and successful adults about the way dyslexia informs who they are, how they learn and the ways in which they develop a different set of skills with which to navigate a world where standardization is the norm. READ MORE @ Video Verite - featuring (with links):

Adult Dyslexics
Erin Brockovich
Benjamin Foss: Inventor of the Intel Reader
Tracy Johnson
Jonathan Mooney
Willard Wigan

Carl Schramm
Steven J. Walker

Dr. Guinevere Eden, Director
Center for the Study of Learning, Georgetown University Medical Center
Dr. Maryann Wolf – Proust & The Squid

Educational Resources
Dr. David J. Connor
The Kildonan School
Delaware Valley Friends School
Bridges Academy
Parents Education Network
SAFE Voices

Evergreen State College

Monday, May 9, 2011

Literacy Tribune Newsletter: May 2011

Literacy Tribune: May 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: Rising Gas Prices – Where Will They Stop?

History Lesson: Memorial Day
was first celebrated on May 30, 1868

Financial Literacy: Got a Budget?
Been thinking about money?

Member Spotlight: Jefferson Vidal
Age 43, just got his driver’s license. He found the Literacy Volunteers of Monmouth County in Long Branch NJ

Technology Watch: Mozilla Firefox 4: a web browser.
By Daniel Pedroza, Writer and Learner

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, May 5, 2011

May: Get Caught Reading Month

May is Get Caught Reading Month

Create an original video promoting audiobooks in 3 minutes or less. Get Caught Listening and Win up to $5,000.
All entries must be received by May 15, 2011.

Judges will select 10 finalists and the Top 3 Fan Favorites will win:
1st Prize: $5,000
2nd Prize: $2,500
3rd Prize: $1,000

Official Rules and Entry Form @

Get Caught Reading also launched LIBRARIES MATTER, a series of videos by top authors.

Monday, May 2, 2011

All Hail the PUBLIC Library

All Hail the PUBLIC Library: The public library is a uniquely American creation. Now we have to fight to keep it public.
On The Commons: 5.02.11 by David Morris

Is "public" now a dirty word? Fort Worth has stripped the word from its local library.
"The word 'public' has been removed from the name of the Fort Worth Library. Why? Simply put, to keep up with the times."
From the Media release on the rebranding of the Fort Worth Library

Fort Worth, you leave me speechless. You’re certainly correct about one thing. The public library is indeed an institution that has not kept up with the times. But given what has happened to our times, why do you see that as unhealthy? In an age of greed and selfishness, the public library stands as an enduring monument to the values of cooperation and sharing. In an age where global corporations stride the earth, the public library remains firmly rooted in the local community. In an age of widespread cynicism and distrust of government, the 100 percent tax supported public library has virtually unanimous and enthusiastic support.

This is not the time to take the word “public” out of the public library. It is time to put it in capitals.

The public library is a singularly American invention. Europeans had subscription libraries for 100 years before the United States was born. But on a chilly day in April 1833 the good citizens of Peterborough, New Hampshire created a radical new concept—a truly PUBLIC library. All town residents, regardless of income, had the right to freely share the community’s stored knowledge. Their only obligation was to return the information on time and in good condition, allowing others to exercise that same right.

By the 1870s 11 states boasted 188 public libraries. By 1910 all states had them. Today 9,000 central buildings plus about 7500 branches have made public libraries one of the most ubiquitous of all American institutions, exceeding Starbucks and McDonalds.

Almost two thirds of us carry library cards. At least once a year, about half of us visit a public library, many more than once. Library use varies by class and race and by age and educational level. But the majority of blacks and Latinos as well as whites, old as well as young, poor as well as rich, high school dropouts as well as university graduates, use the public library.

What Makes The Public Library Special?

When we think of libraries, we think of books and rightly so, for public libraries are by far our largest bookstores and a majority of the 2.5 billion items checked out are still books. Indeed, for every two books sold in America, one book is borrowed from the public library.

But libraries are much more than bookstores. About 30 percent of the people who visit libraries do not borrow books or DVDs. For a greater number of people than we might care to believe, the library serves as a warm and dry sanctuary, a place they can sit without fear of being bothered. For others, it is a refuge from loneliness, a place full of hustle and bustle, where they can attend a concert, or hear a lecture or read a magazine free of charge.


The Best Deal In Town

Despite the enormous popularity and widespread use of public libraries have rarely been well funded. Robert Reagan, then Public Information Director of the City of Los Angeles Public Library offers one reason, “Everybody loves libraries, but mostly they are mute about it.” “(L)ibraries are plagued by the image that we are nice, but not essential” one librarian complained to the Washington Post. People will defend their libraries, but only when the lights are about to go out.

And the lights are beginning to go out. U.S. mayors report that library budgets are one of the first items on the chopping block now. Some 19 states cut funding for public libraries last year. More than half of the reductions were greater than 10 percent. Those cuts compound an often overlooked fact of life for public libraries. Operating costs are going up—electricity, maintenance, materials. The result is that even when operating budgets remain constant something has to give—fewer books or computers or fewer hours.


This is truly a case of penny wise and pound foolish. By any cost-benefit calculus, dollars spent on public libraries are a wise investment. The public library offers concrete empirical evidence that sharing is the least expensive and most satisfying way we can improve our quality of life.

Today the per capita cost of the library has increased to $36 a year although the rate of increase has been much lower than inflation. Meanwhile, the information and resources available have soared dramatically. Over 80 percent of all public libraries now have publicly available computers. They have supplemented their print media with free on-line access either on-site or from their patron’s homes to thousands of newspapers and journals and reference materials. And today most librarians will answer questions not only in person and by phone but also via email. Last year they collectively answered about 300 million questions.


Only recently have public libraries used economics to justify their existence. The results are consistently eye opening. A study of Wisconsin’s libraries estimated a $4 benefit for each $1 of taxpayer money. A Vermont study found more than a $5 benefit for each $1 of taxpayer money; Indiana found a benefit of a $2.38; Florida found a benefit of $6.54 for each dollar of taxpayer money. Or to look at the benefit-cost equation from the other side, for every $1 states or cities cut from their library budgets, their households and businesses spend $2.38 to $6.54 out of their own pockets.

Consider the case of Philadelphia. In 2010 the city spent $33 million on its public libraries and received another $12 million from other sources. That same year the Fels Institute of Government at the University of Pennsylvania undertook a detailed analysis of the economic impact of the public library. Among other things, it found that within 1/4 mile of a one of Philadelphia’s 54 branches the value of a home rose by $9,630. Overall, Philadelphia’s public libraries added $698 million to home values that in turn generated an additional $18.5 million in property taxes to the City and School District each year.

That benefit alone recouped more than half of the city’s investment.

Trying To Take The Public Out Of Public Libraries

All things public are under attack. The Fort Worth rebranding is an indication of how effective this attack has been. The city explained that it was dropping the word “public” because of its “potentially negative connotation”. The Founding Fathers would be disconsolate. John Adams wrote in 1776, “There must be a positive passion for the public good, the public interest…established in the minds of the people, or there can be no republican government, nor any real liberty: and this public passion must be superior to all private passions.” Thomas Jefferson agreed, “I profess… that to be false pride which postpones the public good to any private or personal considerations.”

Would it be improper for me to mention the Forth Worth rebranding initiative was mostly paid for by a large oil drilling company?

An increasing number of library systems have gone beyond name changing to actual privatization of ever-larger parts of their library operations. The biggest player in the library privatization game is Library Systems & Services (LSSI), founded in 1981 to take advantage of President Reagan’s initiative to privatize government services. LSSI now privately manages more than 60 public libraries nationwide and now trails only Los Angeles, Chicago and New York City as an operator of library branches.


In Philadelphia grassroots organizations such as Coalition to Save the Libraries sprang up in 2008 after the city, without a formal vote of the City Council, announced it was going to close 11 library branches. Residents of 9 of the affected neighborhoods plus several city councilors filed suit, citing a 1988 ordinance that no city-owned facility may close, be abandoned, or go into disuse without City Council approval. After two days of hearings packed with library supporters and just hours before the mandated closure, Judge Idee Fox granted an injunction against the closures.

In her ruling Judge Fox made clear the city’s decision was about more than money, “The decision to close these eleven library branches is more than a response to a financial crisis; it changes the very foundation of our City."

Fort Worth got it wrong. We need to put the PUBLIC back into public library. READ MORE !