Library of Congress Literacy Awards Program Best Practices: Adult Literacy



>> Susan Hildreth: But I
just wanted to make a couple of comments about
adult literacy. I think working with
adults in terms of their own personal
literacy is so powerful. It makes a difference
with their own lives, with their children's lives,
with their colleagues' lives. It's just amazing. And I have spent many years
in California and very proud of the literacy program funded
through the state of California. So, our first speaker
is Farrah Parkes from the Philadelphia
Office of Adult Education. >> Farrah Parkes: So, I'm here
to talk about the work we do at the Office of
Adult Education. It's not quite as fun
as some of the stories of like the work with the kids. I used to do that kind
of work with adults and I miss it a little bit, but I'm now working
at a systems level. So, the Office of Adult
Education was established as a mayoral commission
on literacy, you see, the mayor's commission
on literacy. And we were one of the
first mayoral commissioned in the United States
started in 1983. We've been many things
over the years, and we established five
strategic priorities maybe five years ago, it predates
me, but they're up here. They're about increasing learner
access, building capacity, being an advocate, convening,
and sharing information, like I'm doing here now. And one of the things
that we are struggling to do is doing this in a city
where the challenge is great. Philadelphia has the dubious
distinction of being the poorest of the 10 largest cities in the
U.S. New census data came out, we're still stubbornly there. We also have a very low
rate of digital access, which is a real problem
for my portfolio. There's an estimate that over 1
million adults lack 21st-century skills, meaning they don't have
the literacy and digital skills to really compete for
family sustaining wages. There are 200,000 adults over 18
without a high school diploma, which is about, you know,
20% of the adult population. And we have a significant
immigrant population, many of whom lack
English skills. We are home to several
refugee agencies, and those are the places
that tend to get immigrants who haven't really prepared
to move to the U.S. So, they tend not to
have English skills. So, the office a couple years
ago sat back and said to itself, you know, how can we really, looking at what our priorities
are, looking at the challenges, and looking at the money we
have, which is not very much. We — our budget is about
$1 million every year. We do sometimes get
private grants through the mayor's
fund, but not a lot. And so, we decided to focus on
building the system and figuring out ways that we could
help the system work better so that the providers
would be supported and that we would
have more of a system to support adult
education in Philadelphia. So, one of the biggest things
I'm going to spend the most time on is something called My Place, which is a centralized
intake system we developed for adult ed, which is,
I'm told, is pretty unique. I haven't had the good luck
to, my boss Diane Inverso, who conned me into coming here,
she's been all over the country and knows a lot more
about this than I do. But, you know, I'm told that very few cities
have this sort of thing. We do a lot of work
on digital literacy, that's part of my portfolio,
and system building. I'm going to talk a little
bit more about each of these. So, My Place, like I said, is a centralized intake
system for adult education. Anyone — what we found was
that folks didn't know how to find adult education
programs. I know in some cities
adult ed goes through maybe community college or the library system
or even K-12. In Philadelphia it
was just nothing. There were just providers
doing their thing, doing individual recruiting, but
if somebody knew of a provider and that provider shutdown, in
2011 the state went from finding over 25 adult ed providers in Philadelphia to
funding only six. And just last year they
went to funding only four. So, some folks have gone
out of business or gone out of the business of adult
education, unfortunately. So, if folks had known that
place down the street used to provide GED prep, but now
don't, people didn't know. Philadelphia, I don't know if
any of you have been there, is a very neighborhood
focused city. And I found when I was working
with adult learners, you know, I might say you can go
get this service here. And if it was not someplace
they were familiar with, I might as well be telling
them to go to Timbuctoo. There's not — I heard
somebody saying that's true. Right, so Philadelphia. We're trying to get away from
that, but it's also hard to get to the places where
the resources are if you don't know
where they are. So, we run My Place, the
centralized intake system. There's a single number and
we broadcast it everywhere, shelters, social service,
everybody knows they can call, they call our office, and
then they get referred to one of five campuses
that do an intake, get some basic information
and assess them. We use the test of
adult basic education for our native English speakers. Okay, and we use
[inaudible] for ESL. And so, based on their
assessment and, sort of, the intake, we figure out
where they are geographically, what kind of classes they need,
and then they get referred to classes at one
of 51 providers. So, we have for state
funded providers, which really do the bulk of
the work, but we have lots of independent programs,
some programs associated with larger nonprofits,
associated with churches, but they can all receive
learners, have learners funneled to them through our system. What that helps do
is creates a network. It makes it easier for learners to find the services
that they need. It also helps the providers
who don't have to focus on recruitment, because they're
getting learners through us. All the partners in
the network have access to professional development. And we have a data
system that anyone can — well, anyone in the
network can use. So, what happens with adult
learners a lot is they bounce from program to program. You know, they start, something
happens, a child gets sick, they lose a job, their
education is interrupted. But if they're already in the
system, when they come back and they go to a different
provider, that provider can see, well, they started here. This is where they were. And so, that helps create
a little bit of continuity, even though the system is a
little, you know, disjointed. I'm going back, not forward. The second part of
what we do is, we run the city's public
computer access network, or public computer centers. They're called KEYSPOTs. Philadelphia, only about 70% of households have
Internet access compared to about 80% nationally. And there are some zip codes
in Philadelphia where less than half of the households
have Internet access. And by Internet access
they mean smartphones, too. So, less than half
of the households in some zip codes don't
even have a smartphone. And in 2019, that means a whole
lot in terms of accessing jobs, doing homework, accessing
public benefits increasingly. So, the KEYSPOTs are
public labs that are open at 15 hours a week
to the public. We partner with a
couple of city agencies. The free Library of
Philadelphia operates a couple. They have computer labs
in their own libraries, but they also operate
some in community centers. The Philadelphia
Department of Parks and Recreation operates some in
rec centers, and then there are about 30 community-based
sites that we oversee. We have funding for
seven of those. I wish it were more,
but [inaudible]. And they provide
digital literacy classes and job readiness. And these are used a
lot by folks who — particularly for job seeking,
because increasingly if you — if you want a job stacking
boxes at the Home Depot, you have to apply online. So, people have increasingly
seen that they need to go online and need to be able
to access computers and learn how to use them. And we've been tracking — that
should say 850,000 visitors, since they were established. I'm going back instead
of forward again. Another aspect of — I apologize, when this
got rendered it looks a little funny. For online we, again,
looking at what — how we could maximize
all resources, we decided to start
offering online curricula. So, we have a system
called My Place online where folks can take reading
and math classes on their own in KEYSPOTs or at home. It works on smartphones. We have real-life instructors
that are remote that can connect with people and answer questions
and do things like that. But for folks whose work
schedules just don't work for them, or who have, for other
reasons, can't take classes or are waiting to
get into a class, there is an online option. We also have an option called
My Prep, which is for folks who might already have a high
school diploma, but are wanting to get into community
college say and can't pass the
entrance exam. We have an online
learning option for them. And finally, in terms of
system building, we formed, and are the backbone agency,
and are increasingly trying to get away from being
that, the adult lit — the Philadelphia Adult
Literacy Alliance, because one of the things
he wanted to do is sort of empower the system of
adult learners, I mean, adult education providers
in Philadelphia. And really, eventually, adult
learners would be a great part of this system actually, talk
about the people advocating for themselves, to bring them
together and have them advocate for more funding or more
resources or policy changes that might better serve adult
learners in Philadelphia. We do annual conferences, one on
adult education and technology and one for — or tutor network. We also train adult — volunteer
adult tutors who then work with our partners, and we have
an annual conference for them. So, that's just an
overview of our work. I'll be around if anyone has
any questions or wants to talk. Thank you so much to the Library
of Congress, and to all of you. >> Great, thank you [applause]. >> Susan Hildreth: All
right, quickly now. We're going to have Shauna
Brown from Project Read. She's been the executive
director for Project Read, a nonprofit adult literacy
program serving Utah County in the great state
of Utah since 2001. >> Shauna K. Brown: We
provide a one-on-one tutoring for adults in Utah County. And really, I feel
like we change lives through literacy buy
empowering individuals, strengthening families,
and building communities. I think those three,
those three pillars of our organization are
really changing lives, because we aren't just
changing one life. When we change an adult life,
then we have impact on hundreds of family members every year,
whether that be a spouse or a partner, the children in
their homes, as they're able to get better jobs they're
going off of public assistance, and they're able to do just
great things in their community. So, our students are at
least 16 years of age and they speak English
proficiently. So, we're working with
some non-native speakers, but the bulk of my students
are native English speakers with high school diplomas. And we're surprised
in Utah County, they don't think we have — we
have really big universities and a lot of really highly
educated people, and they say, what do you — what do you mean,
we have people who can't read and write and access technology,
and all the other things that literacy allows them to do? And I say, yeah, it
really does happen. And they need to have —
we're working really — our population is reading
below a seventh-grade level. That's really the focus
of what our program is. So, we provide one-on-one
tutoring. We do about 15 to
20 hours of literacy in writing labs every week. And then each student get
an individual assessment and education plan. I think one of the biggest
things we do is empowering and trusting our tutors. I just met with a group
last week and they said, you mean that they'll just help
them do what they want to do and need to be able to do? I said, yeah, that's
the whole point of doing a one-on-one program,
is that we can focus exactly on what the needs, because
our children are wonderful and they need to
learn so many things, but our adults are really
specific in their needs. You know, they might
be in the job market, and all of my students are
underemployed, you know. So, they might be
needing to work on job and interviewing skills
and resume writing skills and those sort of things, but
I also have a stay-at-home mom and she comes home with her kids and they have a backpack
full of papers. And she says, what
do I do with this? How do I — how do I know what
I need to read and what I need to respond to, and how
can I help my child so that they aren't in the
position that I am in right now? I actually got involved
in this as a tutor. I was a volunteer tutor
when I very first started. And my student changed
my life, because I got — I was just out of college
and I was tutoring her at a local library, and
she was a single mom. She had two kids. They were ages four and seven. And the day that she walked
into our tutoring session with prescription
medicine and said, what do I give to my daughters? I said, oh, this is life
or death, essentially, for someone who doesn't know how to prescribe medicine
to her child. And so, we talked about
how to read the dosage. And for kids, it's a big
deal, because you have to know their age, you
have to know their weight, you have to know
all of these things. And she said, I have no idea
how to look at this chart and what to do with it. And I said, oh, friend, we
are going to work on this. And that changed my life, because I realized we can make
a bigger impact than this. It is not just —
when I got involved, I think originally I
thought, oh, they want able to read a book for fun and for
pleasure, and that is wonderful. I mean, the day they come in
and say that book was way better than the movie, I said,
oh yes [laughter]. We got it. But the day that they
say that they can fill out a job application online,
even for the Home Depot, the day that they say do that,
or the day that they come in, I had one student walk in
and he dumped all of his mail on my desk and he said, what
is junk and what is not? What do I need to — what
do I — what can I recycle? What do I need to shred, because
it has personal information on there? And, what do I actually
need to pay attention to? How do I pay my bill
or how do I do this? So, and so that really
changed my life. I think one of the
other great things that we do is we really try to
share our model with others. And so, we accredited
through ProLiteracy years ago when they had their
accreditation system, but we created a Google
site when we did that, which we thought was really cool
because we shared it with a lot of other adult literacy
programs across the country as a really great way for
maintaining all of the data for our model and showing what
those best practices were. And so, there are several
adult literacy programs across the country who are
all using the same Google site framework to kind of collect
all of their information about running the program, so
that [inaudible], which I love. Really practical outcomes. All of our instructional
materials are designed for adults. And back to empowering
tutors, they get to work on whatever is the most
important thing to that adult. So, we have instructional
curriculum that we use. We love New Readers
Press and other things. But we also really say,
if they come in with forms from their work, I had three
students last year who came to me and said, I didn't pass
up a promotion this time? And I said, what do you
mean, pass up a promotion? And they said, well, I
turned it down the first time because I wasn't sure that I
could fill out the paperwork that was required for me
to take that promotion. And I said, that is why
we're doing what we're doing. That is why we are — we
are involved in your life. And so, if they're
bringing in forms from work, that's what our tutors
are working on. If they're bringing
in things from home, if they're bringing
in a bank statement. We were just talking
about one of our students who actually lost 181 pounds
after going through our program because she could finally
read the food labels. She had never in her life
purchased fresh produce because she was on a fixed
income and didn't know how to calculate what it would
cost her at the register. Because if you're on a fixed
income and you get a bunch of grapes, she didn't know
if it would cost $2 or $8, and that was a big
difference to her budget. And so, she had never
purchased fresh produce. She only bought packaged goods where she knew exactly what
it was going to cost her. And so, it's having impacts
in every area of their life, from the jobs to their health. I had another student
who was a fabulous cook and had never written
down any of her recipes. And so, she and her to tutor
actually published a cookbook together that she gave
to families and friends for their — for
Christmas gifts that year. But 90% of our students
had gains last year in reading, writing, and math. And I loved the question back
here asking about what is — oh, maybe it was up
here, what is literacy? And I feel like literacy is any
of the skills that they need to function in society. So, whether that's
reading skills, whether that's writing skills, whether that's digital literacy
skills or health literacy skills or if they want to be able to — I was at the National Cathedral
last night, and if they want to be able to read the
text in the hymnal, that's literacy for them. That's what they need
to be able to access. One of our students,
Ingrid [assumed spelling], who now has the literacy skills
that she needs to be able to enroll in the CNA program,
and for her — we see — we see ourselves as a bridge
or a transition program. [Inaudible] literacy is not
going to get you very far, but [inaudible] literacy can
get you into another program that gets you where
you want to go. So, Ingrid was able to
get some CNA skills, or — yeah, and Arina [assumed
spelling] actually was one who turned down a promotion and
was able to take the promotion. She's now a supervisor. She now has a full-time job. She said, I used to have to
take my kids with me to, my son, my son with me to my
female doctor's appointment, and I did not appreciate
him having to help me fill out my paperwork at
the doctor's office. But she now has a full-time
job with benefits and voted for the first time in
the November election. So, super happy for her. There's so many myths
about adult literacy. I'm always overwhelmed when
people walk in and say, well, they're just lazy or stupid and
didn't get it the first time. I say, not so. Not so. I have never seen a
more dedicated group of students who want to change their lives and then the lives
of those around them. I feel like we will not be
successful in this world of literacy unless the
adults in the lives of our children are also
getting the help that they need. And so, maybe a conversation
I would love to have is about how we can interact better with the children's literacy
programs that are going on so that we can have that
two-pronged approach and they're getting support in
the schools and the programs, but also at home, and we
can make it a [inaudible]. So, thank you so much. >> Susan Hildreth: Michele
is the director of programs. She's responsible for the
overall strategic direction and management of
ProLiteracy's domestic and international initiatives, including professional
development, membership credentialing,
advocacy, and awareness, also other grants
and special projects. And ProLiteracy has been in
this field for a long time, and they're really a stalwart. So, I'm glad to welcome
you to the podium, Michele. >> Michele Diecuch:
We believe so strongly in the transformative
power of adult literacy. Susan mentioned a little
bit about our history. It goes back as far as 1930 when Frank Laubach
traveled the world, I think 129 countries he visited
teaching adults to learn to read in their native languages. Oddly, and coincidentally
enough, both — Frank Laubach started
Laubach Literacy in 19 — or, sorry, in 1955, and
Ruth Colvin started Literacy Volunteers of America just short
after that, both in Syracuse, New York, which is
not a large city. Odd that we were both there. Both had the same mission. And so, we formed in 2002 — joined forces and combat
illiteracy together. The one other thing I would
add is that Dr. Robert Laubach, we call him affectionally
Dr. Bob, started our publishing division,
specifically because he knew that adults didn't want to learn
to read with children's books. The really needed that adult
context, subject matters that are important
to their daily lives. That's just a little
bit of our history. We have a major reach. So, we're domestic and
international, as I mentioned. We work with about
1000 member programs across the United States, both
Farrah's and Shauna's program, Debbie's [assumed spelling]
program in Minnesota. So, I'm really happy to see that everybody's here
in the room today. We have 30 partners in about
25 countries internationally, and then we also have
about 5000 customers through our publishing division. So, we're estimating on
a yearly basis we reach about 500,000 learners. And we've been — we charged
ourselves with kind of doubling that impact over the
next couple of years. We went through a
theory of change process over the last couple of years,
and it's never quite done, but we landed on a three-pronged
approach, I guess I would say, to how we're going to be doing
our business going forward and really combating the issue
of low literacy and scaling it. And the way that we do
that are three ways, increasing the effectiveness
and efficiency of adult literacy programs
at the local level, increasing access, because we
know there are 36 million adults in the United States
who can't read. We're reaching a
fraction of those. Maybe 2 million are
being served right now. As many as another 5
million are on waiting lists. Most programs have
waiting lists. We need to do something bigger
and better to reach them. And then the third would be
the most important, I think, increasing the awareness to ultimately increase the
funding for adult literacy. We can't do anything at
the local level, state, national level, without
that additional funding. The first, increasing
the efficiency and effectiveness of programs. I've listed a few here. I don't need to go
through every single one. But some of the ways
we do that are largely through our publishing
division New Readers Press, which has over 400 titles. We're really diving strongly
into the digital market as well. Knowing that we need to do that,
possibly go direct to learner to increase the access for more
learners across the country. ProLiteracy Education Network,
which we're really proud of, is a hub of professional
development for tutors, teachers, instruct — I guess that would be including
instructors, program managers, executive directors, everything
to help them on the — kind of the cutting
edge and latest research to help them run their
programs most efficiently. We also have learn
and share webinars. We have a biannual conference. Our next one will be this
September in San Diego, which probably sounds
wonderful right now in this January chilly day. We welcome you all. There are cards back
on the table so that you can get more
information about that. It's just a great professional
development opportunity and a lot of peer
sharing as well. We are very proud of a
brand-new tutor training that we released just last
year in June, which is — it allows us to deliver quality
training to potential tutors in a number of ways,
through traditional, face-to-face trainings. We know that works for a
lot of tutors or tutors that are interested in
providing instruction. But we also know in
order to reach more, to reach more learners,
we needed to cut that — cut those face-to-face
learnings out. A lot of programs don't
have the budget to be able to offer those trainings
on a regular basis. So, we provide it so that a
prospective tutor could go through the training completely
online and be ready to be able to provide instruction
right afterwards. Shauna had mentioned
accreditation program. We have quality standards,
16 quality standards that we've asked
programs to follow. It's not a requirement. But we ask them to
follow that so that they know they're running
their programs as officially as possible and putting
sustainability measures in place. We're also in the process of
doing a leadership training for executive directors and a
brand-new research [inaudible] which we're hoping
will help instructors with the latest research
on instruction. In terms of increasing access,
National Book Fun is something where we — most programs will
say the biggest need they have is instructional materials,
whether that's digital or print, and they can't get enough. They're using old
materials, especially programs that are run by volunteers. So, we have a grant
program and we grand about $100,000 each year to
programs in the form of books and materials to
provide instruction. We also know with
that 36 million that traditional adult
education system — libraries can't provide
service to all learners that are waiting on
the waiting list. So, we're trying to
infuse adult literacy into nontraditional programs,
such as homeless shelters, domestic violence centers, knowing that sometimes
those are short-lived stays, but it gets those folks on
the road to instruction, and then we're trying to bridge
that gap between that short stay to a traditional adult
education program so they continue that service. So, really bringing the
literacy to them rather than making them
find it on their own. We're really diving highly into
the direct to student market. Again, the same thing, knowing
we have so many people to reach. Technology is, I would say, what we've learned
is more slow-moving in the adult education
field, but it's here. We have to keep pushing it. It's a — it's a fact. And some of that that we need
to work on is the access. So, even internationally we
have worked with World Reader to provide content
on their on — their tablets and have the
tablets be solar charged. So, it helps with
that access issue, especially in rural areas. This particular project
was in Kenya. We have Leamos, which is
let's read in Spanish, for Spanish speaking adults. It's a 43-course online program. And I think the other thing
that we have to say is, partnering with a tech
partner, tech companies, that's a big thing that
we've been focusing on. Those partnerships have a
national, state level anyway, but we know we can't develop
all these products on our own with the budget that we have, so
we will have to be very careful and intentional about
these partnerships. And the last, I would say,
especially as it relates to programs like, I keep call
it [inaudible], Shauna's, is we really feel
the responsibility to make sure we can refer
volunteers to local programs. They're doing everything
they can at the local level to find them, but we know
we need to do that as well, so we have some major volunteer
referral programs to do that. And like I said, most
importantly, I don't need to go through every single thing, but
it's really important for us to advocate on behalf
of literacy, both for public funding
and private funding, because the diversification
of that — of funding for most programs
is really, really important. So, we do — we do
visits to the Hill. We do Hill Days. We serve as a member on the
National Coalition for Literacy, which has that larger
national conversation of adult literacy organizations and how we can have some
movement here knowing that federal funding has
been flat or declining over the last 20
years, which is scary. In addition to that, we do nontraditional
forms of media placement. We have a partnership
with the Washington Post. We've had an ad in
the New York Times. But we've also had some —
we've taken some chances. We're working with HBO's Veep and having an adult
literacy component to that. So, really trying to infuse
a lot of different areas to get the word out, knowing that the more we can
get the word out, the more people can
understand the issue and help us with more money for it. And then I think the last thing
I rounded out is to make sure that we're doing that nationally
and we can do that on behalf of our programs, on behalf of
our network, but we also need to provide local
programs or state programs with the tools that they need. Many of these volunteer run
programs don't how to advocate and we want to make sure
we can help them do that. I talked about a few of
these, so I don't really need to go through all of them. But a lot of the
lessons learned, or I think the things we have — that we keep an eye on
over the next couple years as we're working to
double our impact are, one, so much more adult
literacy research is needed. There's a little out there. One minute. There's a little out
there, but some of its old. We know adult literacy matters. As Shauna mentioned,
people say why adults? They're lazy. They had their chance. Move onto the children. No, research — as, you know,
old research, but it shows that adults have to be addressed
before anything can happen with children. So, we know that, but we need to
have the research to back that. Technology, technology,
technology. We know the programs are behind,
but we have to keep finding ways for them to reach
the technology, increase their access, and even if it's just a blended
learning approach at first, where they're going
to a classroom but then they're going home and getting additional
practice using technology, they're probably moving
a little more quickly than they otherwise would. But we'd love to talk
to any organizations that can collaborate with
us to have much more impact. And I think the question
earlier about, what can Library of Congress do? I would, I think, echo exactly
what I think Alicia said, which is, gosh, we need —
we need that large, large, large voice to be able
to raise more money. So, I agree. Thank you everybody. So, congratulations
to our awardees for best practices and literacy. I want to thank you on behalf
of Mr. David Rubenstein, who has been a generous
supporter of the literacy awards. Now, I'd like to invite
the best practices honorees up for a group photo. The 2018 winners of
the literacy awards, three of the organizations
were recognized at the Library of Congress National
Book Festival Gala. And we want to honor
them once again. >> Well, thank you very much. This price was very,
very meaningful to us. We have been working over 50
years with this population of children, who are also — they all come from very
impoverished families. And it was like a very
significant reward for us to be recognized, this
— all these years work. Thank you. >> Well, obviously, this is
not any one person's work that we do. But on behalf of all of us
who are working in schools around the country, who have the
hopes and dreams of our children at our heart every day, I think
it's important to be thinking about both what we're
doing outside of schools, but also what are schools
doing to both help our students and really encourage
them to enter adulthood with a love of reading. So, I hope you send
everybody our way, to tell them how
important it is. Thank you. >> Well, they heard
from me all morning. I was quite chatty [laughter]. So, maybe — >> Well, this is different. >> Maybe I'll just say on behalf
of Reading is Fundamental, our Board of Directors, the
communities, and children that we serve to
[inaudible] literacy outcomes, thank you very much. >> And thank all of you, even
though you said you were chatty, we can never be chatty enough about the importance
of literacy. And I'm so glad that the phrase
love of reading was used. Because, yes, it'll
help you get work. Yes, it'll do all these things. But what it really can
do is open your mind, your heart, and your world. So, thank all of
you and thank you for letting us do all of this. [ Applause ]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *