July 30, 2010

Bursting your Bubble!

Welcome to our blog! I am very excited to get a conversation going about everything literacy-related that has an impact on our community. To get things started today, I wanted to share with you a few facts and figures about literacy needs in Central Texas and perhaps burst that bubble that most of us have been living in. 

We know that...
  • 147,180 adults 18 years and older in Central Texas struggle with English language.
  • The young non-English speaking population is growing.
  • 45,477 students in the five Central Texas county schools do not speak English in their homes.
  • Of the 164,452 adults needing GED, 121,074 of them do not have the minimum literacy skills necessary to enroll in a GED preparation class.

Why should we care?
  • Adults with the lowest level of literacy skills earn approximately $240 per week, compared with $681 for those with the highest level of literacy skills.
  • Adults with lower literacy skills are less likely to read to their children. These children are 3-4 times more likely to drop out of school in the long run since they are at risk for not developing basic literacy skills before they enter school.
  • A mother's literacy level is one of the most significant predictors of child's future success in school. 70% of mothers receiving pubic assistance have literacy skills in the lowest proficiency levels.
  • Children of adults who participate in literacy programs improve their grades and test scores, improve their reading skills, and are less likely to drop out of school.
  • In 2003, 43% of adults with the lowest reading skills were living in poverty, compared to only 4% of those with the highest level of skill.

What can you do? 

Meg already gave you some great ways to get started on addressing this need in our community in her post below. However, be on the lookout for some additional and more specific ways to help out and get involved from Jen and Carly! In the meantime, I am curious to hear what ideas or solutions you all have in mind to address the increasing literacy needs in our community. Looking forward to hearing from everyone!

July 21, 2010

Why Blog? Most Austinites are living in a bubble

When I first became involved in human services in Austin, I was startled to learn about the literacy needs in our community. Like most Austinites, I was living in a bubble. I thought that the vast majority of adults in Central Texas were very well educated. In fact, the opposite is true. An even larger segment of our population is functionally illiterate. About one in five working-age adults cannot read or write well enough to fill out a job application, and that does not include the thousands of families who struggle with the English language. This is why the Literacy Coalition was formed. We know the truth about low literacy in the Austin area, and want others to know the truth; to come out of the bubbles we were living in, and do something about this serious issue. The great thing about adult and family literacy is that there actually is a very concrete, doable, and easily realizable solution to the issue. And everyone can do something to help.
  1. Connect a family in need of literacy services with our referral line: 1-866-518-READ.
  2. Volunteer to teach English or tutor children or adults in reading
  3. Make a donation to the LCCT or one of our partner agencies.
  4. Donate in-kind goods
  5. Talk to your employer about donating classroom space, or allowing employees time off to volunteer.
  6. Encourage your friends to visit our web set and learn about local literacy levels- see our snapshot report linked right on the our home page at www.willread.org.
We're excited you joined our blog - get ready for lots of great posts and interesting discussions! 

Welcome aboard, 
Meg Poag 
Executive Director

July 15, 2010

We are LCCT. We Reach, Teach and Unite.

Welcome to the REACH, TEACH, UNITE blog! Thanks for checking us out! Here at the Literacy Coalition of Central Texas we are excited (and also pretty nervous) to start this new blog. "What are we going to write about?" "Who is going to follow us?" "Why are a people going to follow us?" These are some of the questions that were floating around our office once we decided to do this. Well, here we are. And to start, I want to tell you a little bit about why we exist. Based in Austin, TX and serving the 5-county Central Texas region where 1 in 5 native-English speaking community members cannot read or write well enough to fill out a job application, the LCCT is working to create a 100% literate community. Here's how we're doing it:

We REACH out to people in our community with resources. We raise their awareness and involvement in addressing area literacy needs by compelling them to action and connecting them with opportunities to give. This includes community members looking to make philanthropic investments, policy makers and elected officials, and those with time/talents to volunteer.

We REACH out to those families in the Austin area who struggle with limited literacy. Our toll-free Literacy Referral Line connects people with local programs to address their needs and them further their lives. We continually conduct outreach to low-literate populations in our community to help them understand and enroll in the services available to them.

We REACH low-literate families currently receiving services, connecting them with a wide array of community resources. The Literacy Service Provider Directory and the Central Texas Healthcare Referral Guide connect families with needed literacy, healthcare and other services.

We REACH legislators in the State of Texas through Literacy Day at the Capitol to support statewide public investment in adult education and other family literacy programs.

We TEACH literacy instructors using high-quality, evidence-based training in English as a second language instruction and health literacy. We provide trainings, classroom resources and opportunities for peer consultation to improve the quality and quantity of services available in Central Texas.

We TEACH community stakeholders about changing literacy conditions and community needs by conducting community presentations, participating in community planning efforts, and conducting public awareness campaigns and trainings in health literacy.

We TEACH students in adult literacy programs how to engage in the civic process through their participation in Literacy Day at the Capitol, a state-wide advocacy event.

We UNITE literacy programs with the broader network of community service provision, to build a seamless system of literacy services for learners at various levels and for various populations.

We UNITE literacy programs with each other to spark collaboration, shared learning, shared resources, and client referrals at our quarterly Provider Network Luncheons.
Now that you know a little about the work that we do, I want to introduce you to the soon-to-be stars of the blog world. LCCT staff, the self-proclaimed "Champions of Literacy" - semi-jokingly, I might add - include,

Meg Poag, Executive Director - Meg's blog topics will revolve around coalition building, leadership, community engagement, board relations, literacy issues and new research.

Nichole Lopez-Riley, Program Manager - Nichole will cover employee management, program oversight, earned-income ventures, ESL and ABE instruction and resources, and literacy policy changes.

Carly Bradshaw, Development and Communications Officer - Carly's blogs posts will include fundraising strategies, grant writing, event planning and donor relations.
Jen Freeman, Volunteer Coordinator - Jen plans to blog about volunteerism, volunteer management, public advocacy, personal accounts of literacy volunteers, and grant writing techniques (Jen is the queen of writing and editing!).

Shannon Mann, Contract Program Officer - Shannon's posts will cover Spelling Bee fundraising events and the Central Texas Volunteer Summit

Hannah Giles, Development Coordinator - Hannah is starting with the LCCT in August, 2010 in a newly designed position to assist us with fund development. She will blog about fund development and donor relations.

Peter Morrison, Health Literacy Specialist - Peter (that's me!) will be writing about health literacy; issues associate with HL, research, policy updates, workshop results, individuals' stories, health outreach events, and new health literacy resources for literacy instructors, patients and healthcare providers.
Sounds pretty sweet, right!?! Right. Come back to visit us, leave comments, shoot us emails and call us. We'll be here, hanging out and promoting literacy in the hills of Central Texas.