NCL/Adult Literacy Caucus Hill Briefing, Wednesday May 9

The NCL and the House Adult Literacy Caucus will sponsor a Congressional briefing on Outcomes and Significance of Federal Support for Adult Literacy on Wednesday, May 9, 2:30-3:30 pm in Room 340, Cannon House Office Building.

Congressman Phil Roe (TN) is scheduled to open the briefing. The briefing itself will focus on the power and potential of adult literacy education to transform lives. Speakers will include two adult education graduates, Dr Rachel DeVaughan from Mississippi and the Rev David Hendricks from Connecticut; a current program participant, Mr Abraham Castañeda from the Carlos Rosario Public Charter School in Washington, DC; and Dr Margaret Patterson, who will report on the findings of her current research with would-be adult learners on impediments to participation and suggestions for low-cost ways to increase access. NCL president Deborah Kennedy will provide framing comments regarding the federal role in adult education.

The briefing is designed to encourage Members of Congress to maintain a priority focus on adult literacy and adult education as they engage in the federal budget appropriations process for fiscal 2019 and beyond.

The briefing is free and open to the public, and all who wish to do so are most welcome to attend. Feel free also to forward the invitation flyer to colleagues and to the offices of your Members of Congress. We are conducting extensive outreach ourselves, but communications from constituents are often much more powerful.

We will post a summary of the briefing on the NCL website later in May.

National Coalition for Literacy Invitation

Honoring the Life and Legacy of Former First Lady Barbara Bush

The board and members of the National Coalition for Literacy celebrate the life and legacy of former first lady Barbara Bush, and send sincere condolences to her family on the occasion of her passing, April 17, 2018.

Barbara Bush reads a book to children at the All Children’s House in New York City, February 15, 1990

A passionate advocate for literacy, Mrs Bush continually stressed the empowering nature of the ability to read and write. Through the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, which she founded in 1989, she supported programs and services that increase educational opportunity for adults and children across the United States. CNN’s Natalie Johnson notes that “since 1989, the foundation has partnered with local organizations and raised more than $110 million to create and expand literacy programs across the country.”

Mrs. Bush was also an influential voice supporting passage of the National Literacy Act of 1991, which established the National Institute for Literacy and increased the federal support for adult education that had been mandated initially in the Adult Education Act of 1966. (The National Literacy Act and the Adult Education Act were replaced by the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act in 1998.)

Mrs. Bush reads “Brown Bear, Brown Bear” to students of the Ferguson-Florissant School District, Florissant, MO, accompanied by Governor John Ashcroft. 16 Oct 91.

As a powerful champion for adult literacy and family learning over many years, Barbara Bush touched and transformed the lives of countless readers, opening to them the opportunities that literacy affords. The NCL honors her achievements, her commitment, and her passion, and is proud to have collaborated with the Barbara Bush Foundation to advance the field of adult education. We are pleased to know that her work will continue through the Foundation’s initiatives.

As Mrs Bush herself noted in her Family Reading Tips, “The real point is to keep reading — as much and as often as we can.”

Visit www.barbarabushlegacy.org for information on Mrs Bush’s life and legacy and for guidelines on sharing a tribute or making a memorial gift.
Photo credits: George Bush Presidential Library and Museum

Literacy and Social Justice, 50 Years On

The sanitation workers’ strike in Memphis took place 50 years ago, but the literacy issues at its heart are still with us, as Courtland Milloy of the Washington Post points out.
[The Memphis sanitation strike was a fight for better pay and working conditions. Now workers need to fight for better training, 1 February 2018]

In 1968, sanitation work was one of the few options available to those with limited literacy skills. Milloy describes Alvin Turner, who paid for his three children’s college educations on a sanitation worker’s income. Turner himself “didn’t have a lot of opportunities for formal education,” Milloy writes. “He had to take a job with low pay and high risk.”

Yet even the limited opportunities that were available to Turner have become scarce 50 years later. Milloy quotes Cleophus Smith, a Memphis sanitation worker since the 1960s.

“Years and years ago,” Smith recalled, “I told a co-worker, ‘Look, the day is going to come when we are going to have to know how to read and write because if we don’t we are not going to be able to hold a position on these garbage trucks.’ ” And sure enough, Smith said, “We had to take a skill test a few weeks ago, six to nine sheets of questions you had to read and answer. The next thing I know, these young guys are whispering to me: ‘Doc, can you help me? What’s the answer to this one?’ I don’t blame them for not being able to read. Nobody taught them.”

“To operate equipment on virtually any job today means being able to read directions,” Milloy writes. “Too many adults still have not acquired that basic skill. …If federal officials ever make good on their pledge to spend billions if not a trillion dollars to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure, local officials need to be ready.”

“Tough as the fight for social and economic justice may be, it’s a whole lot harder if you’re illiterate.”