Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Raising Literacy Rates in Central New York and Beyond

Illiteracy is a major societal problem. According to UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization), almost 25% of Americans are illiterate and so are nearly 771 million people across the world. Here in Central New York, several organizations are working to increase literacy rates on a local, national, and global level.

Proliteracy Worldwide

One of the world's most active organizations in improving adult literacy is based in Syracuse. In August 2002, Laubach Literary International merged with Literacy Volunteers of America, Inc., to form ProLiteracy Worldwide. According to its website, ProLiteracy Worldwide is the oldest and largest nongovernmental literacy organization in the world.

In the United States, ProLiteracy America has more than 1,200 member groups that work to increase adult literacy. Each group offers classes and tutoring for adults who need to learn to read. The groups also research the needs of illiterate adults and develop curricula to help them learn to read and become more functional in American society. ProLiteracy America also holds a conference each year. This year's conference will take place in Alexandria, Virginia, in early November. The organization's representatives will hold workshops, have feature presentations, and visit Capitol Hill to discuss ProLiteracy's mission with members of Congress.

ProLiteracy's International Program addresses low literacy rates and social problems. In addition to teaching adults to read, the program shows parents how to teach their children to read as well. There are also programs that combine learning to read with learning about social issues. Literacy for Social Change is a program that allows participants to work on community projects while learning to read. The material they use relates to the projects their working on. The information not only teaches people how to read, but also educates them on community issues, such as education, economics, health, peace, and the environment. Women in Literacy Initiative was implemented in several developing countries where men are favored. In these countries, women are often denied rights, and that includes the right to learn. This initiative teaches women to read and also provides them with the knowledge they need to understand the world around them and their own self-worth.
ProLiteracy Worldwide has its own press. The New Readers Press publishes books, magazines, and newspapers for those learning to read. According to its website, the press generates $8 million of revenue each year. Proceeds from the sales of the materials fund the projects and programs ProLiteracy champions.
Oprah Winfrey's Book Club supports ProLiteracy Worldwide. In celebration of the 2007 selection of Sidney Poitier's The Measure of a Man, the Book Club gave a $50,000 grant to the organization.
This is a video from YouTube about ProLiteracy Worldwide.
Family Literacy Alliance of Greater Syracuse

The Family Literacy Allicance of Greater Syracuse works to increase the number of literacy services for children and adults. The Alliance focuses on the four components of "Family Literacy," which include adult education, childhood education, parenting education, and part-child interactive literacy activities. The Alliance strives to garner support for literacy advancement, identify and develop possible funding for literacy, increase awareness and education in literacy, and gather, analyze, and report research and statistics about literacy to the community. The Family Literacy Alliance of Greater Syracuse sponsors events for children. In the summer, the Alliance supports the SAIL Program (Summer Adventures in Learning). The program, which is sponsored by the Learning Disabilities Association of Central New York, targets children from kindergarten through eighth grade who have learning disabilities. The program offers classes in reading, writing, and art, as well as math and computers. The goal is to give students confidence who might otherwise feel inadequate due to their learning disabilities. Organizers say these students often become discouraged by their weaknesses and give up on learning to read and write, and the program teaches these skills in a relaxed setting, where students can learn at their own pace before starting school in the fall.

Literacy Volunteers of Greater Syracuse

Even before Literacy Volunteers of America was formed in 1972, Literacy Volunteers of Greater Syracuse was working to improve literacy rates in Central New York. Today, the organization's volunteers often spend time in Onondaga County Public Library branches, as well as churches and schools, tutoring adults and children who operate below a sixth grade reading level.

Volunteers complete a training program that prepares them to help students learn to read and write the English language. LVS pairs volunteers with students who have been evaluated, and the pair works together for at least two hours each week. LVS says both volunteers and students come from all racial, ethnic, and socio-economic backgrounds.

According to the organization's website, students who have been helped by LVS have gone on to receive job offers, enroll in educational programs, become U.S. citizens, assume active roles in their children's schools and educations, learn how to take advantage of community resources, and participate in elections.
Syracuse University Literary Corps

More than 120 students at Syracuse University are members of the Syracuse University Literary Corps. The program came about as part of the America Reads Challenge that was designed to improve literacy rates among young children through community involvement by adults and college students. SU students tutor elementary school children in the Syracuse City School District.

Community Support

Several organizations and agencies throughout the Syracuse community either support one or more of the above organizations, have their own program that strives to increase literacy rates, or show their support for literacy in other ways. The Onondaga County Public Library has an adult literacy program that helps adults become "information literate" and puts them on a path to lifelong learning. Syracuse Mayor Matt Driscoll and Onondaga County Executive Nick Pirro declared February 26, 2003, Literacy Day in Syracuse and Onondaga County to raise awareness about illiteracy and the local programs working to combat it. Read Ahead supplies grants that fund literacy programs. Although illiteracy is still a problem in Syracuse and elsewhere, several local organizations are working to reduce it both here at home and across the world.


Karin Davenport said...


I thought this was an interesting and informative article. I think it would have been better if it had been written more conversationally... it tended to get a little boring after a while, just reading about all of the organizations. Also, transitions between the different organizations probably would have made the article flow better.

Despite all that, you had some really good links here, and a lot of great facts about illiteracy here in Syracuse. Nice work!

Karin Davenport said...

P.S. I liked the video you had here... it was really interesting!

Also, just thought of something... it would have been interesting to talk about The Learning Place (on Genesee Street), that offers classes, etc. to help adults learn to read, since one of the main points in your post was that people tend to think of illiteracy as a problem among children when in reality, it involves a lot of adults.

Kristen LaVerghetta said...

I think this is a good article overall. I agree with Karin, when she says that it gets a little boring at times. I think part of the reason for that is, you use the same phrases over and over again. For example, you use "learn to read" a lot. I know that the story revolves around that, but maybe you could think of a different way to say it.

The writing style was a bit like a paper, but still well written. I didn't catch any problems with grammar or spelling. Good job over all!!

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