Sometimes, when I'm alone in my car, I practice rolling my "r"s or the very basic sounds of Chinese. I say your names over, and over, and over again until I get as close as I can. It sounds creepy, but it's important. I may not always get the pronunciation right, but I will always put an effort into learning your name.
You say, "It's okay," when I butcher it on our first meeting. You may even offer a more Americanized name or a name completely different than your own. I won't take it unless you truly prefer it, because names matter.
I spent many years as an invisible child with no voice. When people called me by a mistaken version of my name, I never corrected them, but it bothered me. Even as an adult, I am called Megan, Margot, Margret, or any other spin on the original, and I still don't really know how to correct people. The truth is, our identities are important.
You've come all this way. You've went through legal hurdles. Some of you have sacrificed your careers or lost your families. You work incredibly hard. It isn't that hard for me to try to learn your name.
Your Blundering Director,
I recently attended a literal breakout session during the Coalition on Adult Basic Education (COABE) 2019 Virtual Conference. In this session, I learned a new review and engagement tool called the "breakout" box.
The idea is to use material learned in class to create a series of clues which lead to the opening of the box or another desired result. Students must work together to solve the clues and reach the prize, which may be as small as a "Hooray! You did it!". The possibilities are numerous.
This escape-room-esque activity was incredibly exciting for a nerd like myself, so I immediately set out to make my own at home. Boxes can be constructed in a manner of ways that are flexible to the budget. Being a nonprofit, I preferred to go with the no budget method, using envelopes of various sizes and slips of paper. However, actual lock boxes can be used.
What better way to share this method with OFLP staff than to put them through a crash course first thing this morning? I asked them to review a fact sheet before a staff meeting at nine this morning. Imagine their surprise when I was nowhere to be found at 9 a.m. Instead, they found a mysterious envelope with a riddle.
"Millions of Americans have a secret. I have one too. If you want to know my secret, you'll have to solve the clues."
I took a large orange envelope and inserted a slip of paper with a question about adult literacy statistics along with four envelopes, each with an answer on them. Each envelope led to another envelope until the clues finally reached a treasure map hidden inside the office. The map led them to the Pocket Park where more clues led them to the Pinto for a hot drink and a staff meeting. (It was 37 degrees this morning!)
It takes some planning, but this activity was a whole lot of fun! In hindsight, I wish I had researched my locations a bit more thoroughly. I had originally planned for the chase to lead to the library, but it didn't open until 10 a.m. My final clue was also destined for a geocache which was no longer in place this morning, and of course, we could've had better weather! I broke out my large camouflage coat, partly for stealth, mostly for warmth. I felt pretty conspicuous planting clues early this morning!
If you are interested in using this method in your classroom, feel free to contact us for some more information. It is suggested that you use this review tactic with groups of three or four students at a time. If you have a larger group, you can divide the clues among multiple teams or provide a separate "box" for each team.
My name is Debra, and I am a student of the Ozark Foothills Literacy Project.
My mom and dad dated each other for a while in Arkansas. My dad left and went to Seattle, Washington to find a better job. Later on, my mom went to Washington to live. She had brothers living out there. While there, she came in contact with my dad, and they started dating again.
After dating for a while, they decided to get married in 1966. In 1971, I was born in Bellvue, Washington. We lived there until my dad got out of the service, then we moved back to Arkansas when I was two years old so we would be closer to family. We built our house in Calamine, close to my grandparents (on my dad’s side). Every day when I got off the school bus, I would go to their house. My mom and dad were at work. Dad would pick me up when he got off.
My dad and grandfather had about 150 cows together on 330 acres. My grandfather had laying hens and hogs, as well. My grandparents’ house was heated with a fireplace, and my grandmother cooked on a wood stove. They had to carry water from a spring for cooking and drinking. Later on, my grandma found two springs that were closer to the house than the one they had been using. They had two gardens. Dad bought a tractor with discs to work it. We also had a big garden that my dad would work in.
Dad was a route supervisor for the Arkansas Democrat. Every Sunday, I went to church, then with my dad to check on the mail carriers to make sure they didn’t need anything. Then, we would go have lunch. We’d go back to church that evening. He won a cruise once for the excellent job he did on the routes. Mom and dad went to Old Mexico and other places in that area. They brought my sister and I souvenirs from the places they visited. They had a lot of good food to eat, and they participated in a lot of fun activities.
I graduated from a very small school. We only had 350 students in the whole school, elementary through high school. My best friend moved away and went to another school, so we didn’t graduate together, but we still stay in touch.
I realized after high school that I struggled with reading. I had trouble filling out papers for work and at the doctor’s office. I couldn’t read instructions on projects that I wanted to do or recipes.
After graduation, I went to work. I am disabled, so I can only work part-time. I started taking literacy classes when I was pregnant with my daughter, Michelle, but the program went away after a while. I found the Ozark Foothills Literacy Project after trying to take classes at UACCB. Back then, it was called the Literacy Council of Independence County.
No one else in my family has problems with reading. My dad liked to read, and he did a lot of reading for work. My daughter had a little trouble early on, but my husband and I got her a tutor early, in the fourth or fifth grade. My husband helped her with her homework in the evening. She did really well in school.
Now I work for Quapaw House Recovery and Wellness Center changing lives. I enjoy working with everyone there. I am a housekeeper, so I work all over campus. I volunteer when I have time. I am also a member of the Extension Homemakers Club, Pfeiffer Extension and Crafty Quilters.
I like to work with my hands, doing sewing and making wreaths. I also like being outside in my yard, planting flowers or mowing. I enjoy going to church and being around my family and my church family. I am a member of the Ladies Auxiliary.
I’ve come a long way from where I started, and I hope to go even further. I’m reading all sorts of books from the library now about soccer, horses, and my favorite, crafts. I’ve even picked up some puzzle books at yard sales and the dollar store. I have learned how to use a computer by taking lessons on my own.
Since being with the Literacy Project, I have learned to write and to read more independently. They work around my work schedule and encourage me to keep learning. I appreciate the volunteers that dedicate their time to helping those who want to better themselves.
A former AmeriCorps member writes:
"My ESL student Ariana is a bright, gregarious woman whose infectious positivity influences those around her. The first couple of times we met, Ariana brought the Ozark Foothills Literacy Project two new students as well! A school teacher from Guatemala, she is determined to move forward in her life in the U.S. She has recently become a single mother, and her infant daughter has medical issues that will eventually require surgery. But Ariana is very matter of fact and undaunted in her drive to better herself and provide for her two girls. She has a radiant smile that seldom leaves her face.
Though enrolled at a local college in ESL courses, she has also sought out individual tutoring with us to improve her English, especially writing. She is not afraid of hard work and after losing her job at a local poultry processor, she has only missed class for medical reasons, job interviews or work. Tutoring Ariana is like a breath of fresh air because of the tremendous dose of positivity and “can-do” attitude she brings to class, and I imagine anywhere else she goes."
Our students are no doubt an inspiration to others, including our staff and volunteers. The greatest thing about working in adult literacy is seeing people take initiative and exact positive change in their lives and the lives of others.
We want to send a big thanks to everyone who has helped with the Project over the years. You're actions are making a difference.
If you'd like to join in, what better day than October 14th? Our next training will be that Monday at 5:00 p.m. at First Community Bank's main branch in Batesville.
If you are a book lover like me, you might wonder what on earth would possess someone to ban a book. According to the American Library Association, over 11,000 books have been challenged since 1982. These challenges come from concerned citizens and are often for debatable content, language, or violence. Once a book has been challenged, a board will review it, and in some cases, it may be banned.
Banned Books Week celebrates our first amendment right to uncensored, free access to information. In a time when information is at our fingertips, it is easy to think that the story on censorship is over, but unfortunately, books are still being challenged. Of the top 11 most banned books of 2018, over half were challenged for LGBTQ+ themes.
A simple Google search on banned books will turn up results that may surprise you. Dr. Seuss and Harry Potter have both been on the list as have many of the classics including Huckleberry Finn and Catcher in the Rye. The bottom line? Everyone has a right to form their own thoughts concerning literature. Just because one doesn't agree with certain content doesn't mean that others shouldn't have access.
Censorship is a slippery slope. Nazi Germany banned and burned over 4,000 books between 1933 and 1945. The information we receive daily from the media already has to be filtered for bias and fact checked. That alone is a hefty task, but can you imagine being unable to read any information for yourself? You'd have to rely on word of mouth alone for the news, your health information, religious and political information, and you'd have to trust any contract you ever signed was honest.
During Banned Books Week we celebrate the right to read, but 36 million Americans can't. They can't negotiate their own bills, their own legal affairs, or their own banking. 7,000 of them each year will die from misreading prescription labels. Everyday life is a challenge for our friends and neighbors who struggle with reading, but they are also severely limited in their ability to separate fact from fiction and to form their own opinions based on research.
If you want Americans to access and exercise their rights, (the right to vote, the right to free speech and freedom of religion, the right to a fair trial, just to name a few) then you have to be concerned about the adult literacy crisis. Take a stand for independence by getting involved in your local literacy council. Everyone has a right to a basic education. Literacy is imperative to liberty.
Learn more about the Ozark Foothills Literacy Project at our next tutor training on October 14th, 2019 at the First Community Bank's main branch in Batesville at 5:00 p.m. Call or text Morgan at 870-834-2810 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to register.
While going through some old files, we discovered a trove of success stories. We'd like to share one of these each week on Thursday, starting today.
This story came from former AmeriCorps member, Kayla. and has been edited slightly for this blog. Kayla writes:
"Being in a foreign country is by no means easy. It is difficult to communicate with others on even the simplest subjects. Individuals in this situation are making an effort all on their own to improve their situations. An ESL student that I have been tutoring for a couple of months never ceases to amaze me. Rather than filling up notebook after notebook with words new to him, downloading applications to practice pronunciation, this student walks over four miles to and from class no matter the weather. This student is driven to succeed. It is things like this that keep me focused and positive about what I am doing. This is a great opportunity to help in your community. I encourage everyone to participate in this program and to raise awareness for literacy, because too many times it is overlooked."
Transportation is one of the biggest barriers we have to adult education in rural Arkansas. Many of our students walk to school or ride bikes. Our students and tutors can use any public location to meet. This way, if a student has no transportation, we can find a location closer to his or her home.
Recently, a student told her tutor that in her home country, there were no school buses. If a family could not afford public transportation (Sometimes a bus, sometimes a truck owned by an enterprising local) then their children would not be able to attend school. She told us that where she had lived, school was an hour bus ride away.
Can you imagine? Even the poorest families in our country can send their kids to school. Furthermore, she said that families had to pay for tuition, meals, and for high school, so many went only to primary school or didn't attend school at all.
The most beautiful thing about our program is the hard work and determination of our students. It isn't required that they come here. They go above and beyond, even when it isn't easy, to make a better life for themselves and for their families.
If you'd like to get involved, please call or text 870-834-2810 or email email@example.com. The more volunteers we have, the more likely we'll have a geographic match for students as they enroll.
Each summer, OFLP sets out to make a SPLASH! This summer might have been the biggest SPLASH we've made to date, so we thought we'd share the success stories and beautiful pictures from our students and volunteers.
SPLASH stands for "Summer Literacy Achievement at School and Home". This year, we asked parents to stay with their children as a means to keep safe ratios, but what happened was so much more than that.
With each lesson, parents interacted with their kids during literacy activities. It boosted the confidence of the kids, but it also empowered parents who too often feel powerless to help their kids. With each activity for the children, the parents learned engagement skills that will carry on into the school year.
In addition, we followed the natural curiosity of the kids to get them reading what they wanted to learn. Children who were reserved and didn't want to participate at first were volunteering to read happily by the end of the program.
Our Melbourne tutors, Natasha King and Cyndi House, reported that a nearly blind child in attendance was able to read to his parents through smart adaptations. He isn't currently able to receive braille instruction or magnifying equipment until his documentation for legal blindness is processed.
Katie Walling from Cave City noted that her students had a thirst for knowledge about animals. They followed that path and found even the youngest had facts she could teach to the others. She learned them at the zoo!
Meanwhile, Jaden Berry and Brianna Bass, of Southside and Batesville respectively, teamed up to offer a collaborative program to students in Independence County. They reported that attention to lessons and comprehension was greatly improved through the use of literacy games. Brianna is a Dyslexia tutor and uses the Barton reading program to help children with learning disabilities overcome obstacles.
All of our kids had a great time and learned so much, from facts about the universe and our planet to current environmental issues and emergency preparedness.
We absolutely love this program and want to encourage our communities to get involved. We have learning opportunities throughout the school year as well. If you'd like more info on our Family Literacy program or would like to enroll, donate, or volunteer, please contact us using the form below or call 870-793-5912.
This program was brought to you by the John Herman Hickman Foundation, the Arkansas Community Foundation, and the Windgate Foundation. We are proud partners of the Adult Learning Alliance and the United Way of North Central Arkansas. Our offices are generously donated by Citizens Bank. We are a 501(c)3 nonprofit, and we need supporters like you! All donations are tax deductible.
Morgan Winston Reed
Picture of Jack Schoolhouse in rural Izard County. Pulled from http://exploreizard.blogspot.com/2008/06/jack-schoolhouse.html.
Chances are, you don't remember a time when kids weren't required to attend school. The first compulsory attendance law in Arkansas was passed in 1909. Everyone alive today should have attended school, right?
Not quite. The original compulsory attendance law allowed counties to opt out. Many rural ones did, including the Delta counties which still struggle with low literacy rates and poverty today. By 1917, only a third of school age children were attending regularly, and there were no requirements for teacher education. Attendance didn't guarantee an education of any quality.
Many families were desperately poor and relied on their children to help them work the land. In addition, a large portion of our mostly agrarian state held anti-intellectual beliefs. This caused a delay in state funding for schools which continues into the modern era. Despite the fact that charging tuition was illegal for public schools, many had no other choice for funding.
Not only was sending children to school too costly for families struggling to eat, but many districts, even by the 1960s, did not offer a full twelve years of schooling. Still yet, for minority children, schools were underfunded and dangerous even into the 1970s. Prior to desegregation, money intended for black schools was routinely diverted to white schools, costing black schools over a million dollars per year. Often, it took every penny of the money funded to build schools, leaving nothing for supplies or teacher's pay. In the 1930s and 40s, only 1.8% of black children were attending school.
For most schools, the split year was still the rule. We still have individuals alive today who may have only attended a year or two of school. Out of those years, they may have spent only a few months in school between planting and harvesting. Enforcement of compulsory attendance was also fairly slack for generations.
When we look at the history of education in our state alone, it's easy to see how older adults are included in the 20% of adults who can't read and write. What about the younger generations?
Arkansas just passed Science of Reading legislation. Without going into too much detail, this legislation came to be when scientific studies showed that the way we have been teaching literacy only works for a third of students. Out of the rest, some will pick up reading and writing somehow. The other 20% will never learn to read and write in school. Most brains just don't learn the way that we teach.
We are also seeing a rise in diagnosis of learning disabilities. The most common learning disability is Dyslexia. This learning disorder comes with differences that can actually be seen on brain scans. A child whose parent is dyslexic has a 50% chance of also being dyslexic. Services are always improving for children with disabilities, but the nation as a whole has allowed children to slip through the cracks. 20% of U.S. graduates will graduate this year without learning how to read.
This post has become long, but there's still more to learn about education and who is receiving it. Our final case involves immigration. Many assume that a person who does not speak English is not here legally. This isn't the case. Those here on visas, legal residents, new citizens, and even asylum seekers whose cases have been approved or are in process are in need of education on our language, culture, financial systems, health systems, and government. Even residents or citizens who have lived in the U.S. for years may still struggle with the language.
Some who speak English perfectly may not be able to read or write it. Others may not have attended school in their own country and may be illiterate in their native language.
We often bemoan the public education system, but it is important to remember that we are lucky if we have received a free, accessible, quality public education. Not everyone in our country has been granted this, and even fewer in other countries have access to this important public benefit.
It's time to put away the stigma surrounding these situations and uphold the solution. When you see someone making assumptions, speak up, and if you feel called to help educate those who are not in the public school system, those who are anywhere from 15 to 99, those who work full-time before they are eighteen, those who want to know how to pay their taxes, drive a car, read a prescription, etc., etc., then stay tuned to your local literacy project.
You don't have to be a teacher to teach, and it costs nothing to be an advocate.
Read more about our state educational history here.
OFLP AmeriCorps member Twyliah Mitchell sat down with one of our STAR students who has been with us for a year and a half. Raymond comes every day that he can and practices at home. Sometimes he records lessons with a tape recorder to listen to in his truck. He is excellent with machines but has always struggled to read. He thinks it might be due to an injury he had as a child. This was his interview.
Where are you from?
Locust Grove, AR.
Tell me about your background?
All I can tell you about my background is I’ve worked hard my whole life, since I was three. Nobody knew what I had, or what I’ve got. I see things backwards from what anybody else sees. I’m still working hard all my life, if I stop I get bored.
Did you go to school?
I went through the 9th grade. I bluffed my way through to 9th grade.
What school did you go to?
I went to Batesville.
How was school for you? Was it hard?
It was hard, like I said, I had to bluff my way through. I would ask the other kids how they would spell it and everything and have them fill the thing out, and I’d do the same thing on tests. A lot of times I wouldn’t pass the test, or I’d get part of it right. All the teacher would ever tell me was that I wasn’t trying hard enough. Which if you can’t read it, and you’re reading it then you forget the next word, then you try to read the next work it’s hit and miss.
Right. You’re probably trying harder than your classmates.
What do you do for a living?
Right now I’m retired, but I did welding, cutting, machine shop work, run a crane, electrical, sheet metal, hydraulics, air compressors, and everything else.
Was it hard for you to find work?
No. I’ve never had trouble finding work, because if they ever hired me, they’d never fire me. I’d have to quit, because I wasn’t making enough money or I didn’t like what I was doing.
So your dyslexia didn’t hold you back at work?
Yeah, it did a lot on figuring and mixing, like with medicines, I always watched how much is mixed up and learned it that way. Reading the label and mixing it up, I couldn’t do it.
How have your literacy classes benefited you?
Well, I’ve learned to read a little better. I can read more words and spell more words.
How do you like Laura?
Laura? Oh, she’s a little doll! How can I reword that? She’s helpful, and she’s patient. She’s got to be patient to put up with me. She’s not cutting corners, but she cuts other ways to help me more. She gets along with me good, I haven’t had any complaints, and I haven’t heard any out of her.
I think it would be almost impossible not to get along with Laura. She gets along with everybody, she’s just nice.
She’s kindly shy, but I can figure that. I can figure that. I used to be shy, but then I got where I couldn’t keep my mouth shut. I’d tell you what I thought about it.
What would you tell other people that need help with their reading?
“I have a guy, a friend of mine, he’s illiterate. He can play all about any kind of instrument you’d want to play. I asked him about it. He said, ‘Why would I want to start?’ He’s eighty-something. I said, ‘What else have you got to do?’ I think any time you can improve yourself, do it. I don’t care what it is. The more I do this, the more I find out, a lot of people take reading for granted. They don’t read enough.” I’m not learning as fast as I want to, I’d like to be able to read more, and I’ve got to where I can. Sunday I read a lot of the singing, but it happened to be some words I know. I wish I could read a lot better. If I keep it up, if I ever get the hang of it, I won’t stop. I’ll pick up any book I can.
Well if you’re already better than you were, it’ll go.
I hope so.
Is there anything else you’d like others to know about your life as an adult learner?
Well, in my adult life. I’ve got health problems. I think if I can improve myself in anyway, I’ll do it. [ I think everyone should take help if it’s there and take initiative for themselves.]
I want to know something. I was the oldest one in the county jail, I was the oldest one at Wilber D Mills, and AA, am I the oldest one in the state doing this?
Morgan: I think you’re tied. I’m not sure about the state, but we have one other man who is 72 in our program.
I’m 73. This March, I’ll be 73.
Happy Birthday! You’re just ten days away.
I don’t keep up with them anymore. I wanted to know that for a reason. I’ve seen that boy that helps me, he can’t read good. [He ought to be down here learning.]
It can be tough to make an impact when money is tight. Did you know that you can make an impact anytime you shop online?
Anything that you could purchase on Amazon (Which even includes groceries these days!) can be purchased on smile.amazon.com. Amazon Smile is incredibly easy. Simply log into your Amazon account through the safe and secure smile.amazon.com URL then proceed to shop as usual.
A percentage of your purchase will be donated to the charity of your choice at no cost to you. You can donate without spending an extra dime!
With Mother's Day on the horizon, we hope you'll consider making an extra impact with your shopping by choosing the Ozark Foothills Literacy Project as your Smile choice charity. Each small percentage adds up to support adults in your area learning to read and a number of family programs.
Thank you for your continued support.