Wednesday, September 30, 2015

what can you do: LITERACY

All month, we've been talking about LITERACY in Northwest Arkansas. (follow #NWArkCares to see the other articles and topics)

If you know anything about me, you know I like to find solutions.  When I know there is a problem and I can lend my voice to it, I'm all over it if there is actually something that can be done.

I spent some time this summer cleaning out my garage, as I've mentioned here and here, and this month of literacy talk inspired me
Special Delivery to a Free Little Library in Fayetteville.  Just one thing you cna do to help #Literacy in #NWARK. #NWARKCares @bigpittstop
to pull a box of books from "the pile" and take them to a friend who has deemed herself the local librarian for a Free Little Library in Fayetteville.  The cool crisp air flowing through her front porch made the most inviting setting for this beautiful little space, plus the conversation and memories over these classics was delightful.  I love knowing that some of my childhood books (and homework assignments) will be put to great use for the people of Washington County!

When it comes to literacy, there are a few things that I think YOU and I can do:
  1. Donate your money - whether its Giving Tuesday, or a regular Tuesday, any of the organizations we've mentioned would love your investment.
  2. Donate your time - be a reader
    1. senior centers, preschool centers, or homeless shelter
    2. my dad is a reading buddy at the elementary school where my sister teaches.  He gives 30 minutes of his time a week and he sits and reads with a student that the teacher knows needs a little extra help!
  3. Donate your books - this one specifically triggered my attention. Some options in Northwest Arkansas include:
  4.  Open your mind - this could very well be the most important
    • Dont Judge. Just stop.  
    • We are blessed.  All of us reading this are bless beyond what we know because we can read.  It changes the everyday little moments. 
Do what you can with what you have where you are. How can we help with #Literacy in #NWARK? #NWArkCares @bigpittstop
Be thankful and give when you can.  Inspire the next generation.  Educate on what you know. Extend grace, always grace.

**The idea for this post was inspired by the ladies committed to the #NWArkCares movement.  After I asked them about where to give some books, they offered a lot of really great options and ideas.  While my original question was not to crowd source for a post, I couldn't leave their answers where they were.  So, these are not all my answers.  I fully share the credit to these amazingly creative and generous ladies I'm fortunate enough to call friends!**

Sunday, September 27, 2015

who is the face of illiteracy? was the topic at lunch this week. 

Answer: you can't tell.
We have to meet people where they are to get them where we want them to be. | Who is the face of illiteracy by @bigpittstop Literacy is not a gift to just one type of person.  Many struggle (56% of AR) with not being able to read above a 4th grade level.  What do we do about it? #NWArkCares

If it is estimated that 56% of adults in AR can only read at a 4th grade level then looking around the restaurant I was stunned to think of the number of people in the room we could be talking about. 

I was surrounded by business professionals, parents meeting their young professional children, a future Senator, and the guy across the table from me...a board member for the Ozark Literacy Council, and my friend.

As we talked about what he's learned while serving on this board, I wrote several notes.  One liners that pricked my mind into thinking.  Thoughts that had me riveted in conversation and bits of conversational gristle I've not been able to chew down.

Like the thought that you can't really tell someone who is illiterate, functionally literate or full functioning literate from one another.  On the outside the only thing that might separate us is the cover letter that accompanies our resume.  The struggle is real and people all around us face it every day.

Many of those who would fall into this functionally literate category surround us every day.  Functional = can you get by?  Can you read a menu, a receipt, or an instruction manual?  Think about some of these things these neighbors face:
  • coping to get around
  • trying to help their kids with homework
  • they follow patterns of behavior of those around them - just copying 
  • do they really listen when the pharmacist at Walgreens tells them the side effects when they hand them their prescription?  Do they know how other medicines will interact or what the medicine might do to their driving or sleeping?  Without listening, they never read the enclosed documentation (heck, I don't read it either) and get the information needed for their personal health.
  • at work, they often stay in a position once they learn it because they cannnot read to learn a higher skill without one-on-one demonstrative training.
  • ever thought about the fact that technical English is a totally different dialect than every day conversational English?  Think about how hard it is to put together a piece of furniture you buy at the store where everything is numbered and labeled and you have no directions.  How frustrated do you get...
It is much easier to go into the school system and see reading level issues and work alongside a student to bring them up to a higher reading level.  But that issue is all together different for an adult.  The only way to capture this is to catch a mistake, ask them to read, or trust that they will walk in the front door of one of these centers.  And think about the social crucifixion it takes to walk into the front of a Literacy Center and say... "I can't read,"  when you are an adult. 

During our lunch conversation (over tacos!) I was moved.  Moved about the audacity it takes to admit a fault in oneself.  And how much more gumption has to be involved when that flaw involves something that is socially not accepted. 

I applaud the efforts of Tyson Foods who is partnering with the Ozark Literacy Council to make a change.  This partnership builds on Ozark Literacy Councils commitment to adult literacy through language literacy, civic literacy, financial literacy, health literacy and workforce literacy as platforms to teach.  Literacy is much more than just being able to read.  Putting letters together into words and words into sentences and sentences into paragraphs that tell a story is a learned skill.  A skill if missed at the opportune time, ie grade school, becomes a luxury.  A luxury even to the US - Arkansas - Northwest Arkansas. 

Literacy makes a difference for young people, old people, white people, internationals, people who check you out at a gas station, serve you at a restaurant, answer the phone when you call a bank and work in factories to make items you use every day.

Illiteracy doesn't have a specific face.  It doens't wear a certain color, emit a distinguished smell or facilitate a certain stage of life.

It does however suffer from complacency, loneliness, guilt, and shame.  It admires the rich and the rich in spirit.  It fights for the next generation to know better and do better.  Its knows that privilege, luck and busy keeps blinders up for the rest of us.  And so we all keep marching on; forward in our own directions.

This post is part of the #NWArkCares series by the Northwest Arkansas Bloggers group. To view other posts, visit the Northwest Arkansas Bloggers Pinterest Board or follow #NWArkCares through social media.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

how hard would it be to shop if you couldnt read?

Ever thought about false illiteracy?
How hard would it be to shop if you couldnt read? My thoughts on "learned literacy". | #NWArkCares #literacy

I was sitting in a Starbucks earlier this month talking with a friend about reading, literacy and all the things that have been circling my mind this month.  We are both in marketing professions and I was struck by something we both realized.

How many people go through life never knowing how to read but have "learned" literacy to a point that makes them functional in society in a way that no one knows?

Then as marketers/designers/strategists, it really hit me to think about what we do in our creative ways to change product shape, labels, even colors of things that our society has accepted as standard.  It doesn't affect us, but what does it to do folks with "learned literacy."  What are some of the products that have an iconic shape to you?
  • coke bottle
  • bandaid
  • butter
  • biscuits
  • shampoo
  • vitamins
  • eggs
  • milk
  • 2 L soda
I know how confused and overwhelmed I am when I stand in front of the biscuit section - cinnamon rolls, cookies, pizza dough, wheat pizza dough, loaf bread, crescent rolls.  How hard would it be to pick out any of those if you didn't know how to read?  Yogurt, juice, sodas, lunch meat, bread, coffee, baking ingredients.  How hard would it be to shop at a grocery store if you couldn't read?

When this thought originally hit me, I was sitting eye level to the drink bin at Starbucks by the register.  There was water in a square bottle, water in a smooth bottle with a rounded top, and fancy, clean water in a non-plastic container.  In our attempt to be fancy, clean, and marketable have we over complicated it?

I don't have an answer and I don't want to condemn and of my marketing pals.  I've just been chewing on this and thought I'd through it out for more discussion. 

And, maybe it's not just those with "learned literacy" that are feeling overwhelmed....


This post is part of a monthly series with other Northwest Arkansas Bloggers.  This compassionate and powerful group has committed to using their voice to bring chatter and discussion to topics that touch, affect and challenge our communities.  This month, September, we are pondering: Literacy. Follow along and join the conversation #NWArkCares.

Friday, September 11, 2015

may we always remember

This morning I got a lump in my throat.

The one that comes every year on Patriots Day.

The one that I get when I open Facebook or turn on the TV and see the images. It was the Kennedy assassination of my generation. The imagery that takes us instantaneously back to the moment where we stood and watched it happen. The moment we stood wide eyed and gasping for air as we realized everything would be different.

This year it's hitting me different. I'm thinking about my friends who are having to articulate the "what" and the "why" of that day to their kids. The friends I stood by as we watched that horrific day unravel together; college sophomores worried about our dads who worked in federal buildings and flew planes.  Worried about our aunts on vacation in NY.  Worried about tomorrow, and not the test we had to study for.  Knowing that safety and security would never have the same meaning.

Many of my college friends kids started school this year. We've spent the last few weeks talking about back to school traditions, looking at first day pictures and hearing about transitioning to all day school. But today a new normal has unfurled. Some of their had to wear red, white, and blue on a day in September and hear about a new kind of hate for the first time. And now, those moms are sitting in carpool lines preparing themselves for a different kind of after school conversation. A conversation that will expedite the conversation of diversity, hatred, and understand.

While we will never know, may we never forget.

May we never forget the lives of heroes that day. Men and women who unselfishly gave their lives. Neighbors who loved because that was their default mode. 

May we never forget the magnitude and hurt inflicted from hate and cowardice.

Love always wins.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

books open our eyes to the world

One of my favorite days in elementary school was when the Scholastic book order sheets arrived. I would promptly look at every item, circle the things I was interested in, and couldn't wait to get home to talk to my mom about what I could order. Then I'd sit with anticipation for the day to come when the order would arrive.

Ahhhh, the smell of a book. It's a sensation I still get sentimental about. The smell of new books, old books, libraries, even the crack of a spine for the first time.

Books are a gift. But knowing how to put the letters on the pages together into words and then words into a sentence and sentences into paragraphs that make sense, that's a gift.

Much of the world is illiterate. One source suggests that 785 million adults worldwide are illiterate.  1 in 5 adults in the world cannot read.  Something you and I take for granted given the fact that you are sitting here reading this on a computer or mobile device of some sort. What gets me beyond that is that 2 out of 3 of those are women.  And, as we know women are often the ones who teach the next generation most any skill.

While a global issue, illiteracy is an issue much closer to home.  The Ozark Literacy Council, Literacy Council of Benton County and the Northwest Arkansas Reading Council are all Northwest Arkansas organizations committed to changing those stats.  Later this month, I'll tackle some "did you know" facts about literacy and Arkansas, more specifically Northwest Arkansas. But, in 2003, the National Center for Education Statistics proposed that 13% of the adult population in Washington County (Fayetteville/Springdale) and 12% of adults in Benton Co (Rogers/Bentonville) lacked "basic prose literacy skills."  You and I would consider these some of the wealthiest places we have visited.  But money does not determine literacy skill.
Books open our eyes to the world.  A few thoughts on literacy #NWArkCares #nwark #nationalreadabookday @bigpittstopSo, I ask the question "Do you remember who taught you to read?" This past weekend I went to The Bush Center and was struck by the No Child Left Behind exhibit. While there are lots of opinions around this part of the Bush Administration, what I loved was the commitment to free education for all.  And, I love even more that Mrs. Bush was (is) so committed to education and reading that she was able to keep the committment to this platform during George W.'s administration.

I paused for a moment on Saturday afternoon and looked at this wall of books - Goodnight Moon,
Charlotte's Web, Curious George, Little Bear, Little House on the Prarie, Bridge to Terebithia, Beezus and Ramona, Corduroy, Old Yeller, Hank the Cowdog, Clifford, and Dr. Seuss, they were all influential literary pieces in my background.  Think about it.  Reading words on a page unravel an adventure that a movie or TV show could never really capture.

Books and reading are a gift. Books open your mind to the world. Books take you on adventures to places you would never visit. Books challenge you to dream and imagine a world you could never know. Books tie cultures and fashion and cuisine.  Books let you explore character flaws you might not process on your own and introduce you to amazing people you might never meet. 

What would your life be like if you couldn't read?