November 14, 2011
During the opening ceremony, the conference host, ProLiteracy, asked audience members to share their stories. To share why each one of us stands for literacy. We heard some inspiring stories, some heartbreakingly sad, and some that just seemed obvious. That's where I think my reason for "standing for literacy" fits in, in the obvious category.
A mother's literacy level is the number one predictor of her child's success in school. An individual's health literacy level is the STRONGEST predictor of a person's health status. Twenty percent of the Central Texas population is reading below the 5th grade reading level! It's so obvious why we all need to stand for literacy. Literacy is the best avenue to a healthy, employable, empowered community!
So tell us, why do you stand for literacy? Share your stories with us here, and check out the ProLiteracy website to share your story with them, too!
I Stand for Literacy!
You can also hear other people's stories HERE
October 19, 2011
So you are probably wondering how this works, so let me give you the low down. In the new Bee Team Trivia Challenge teams (up to four) compete for just $10 (per team)! So you might be wondering how spelling and bees relate to trivia? Do you know how to spell? Can you use those words in a sentence? Do you know where words and phrases come from? Have you ever read a book? Well you have a head start on some of us ... and we made the questions! Here are a couple of examples from the first two rounds in the Bee from October that will give you a better idea of what to expect:
Spelling Example:This word, meaning "steady persistence in a course of action" is often mispronounced, leading to incorrect spellings.
What Hogwarts House did Harry call home?
October 10, 2011
As most of you know, in the non-profit world there is never enough time to do everything we want to do. So here I am...7:30PM and I'm trying to catch up on list of "overdue" items on my ToodleDo.com (a great tool but can get frustrating when you have a list of 10+ things that are bolded with the label "overdue") and sure enough, in red type, bolded, is the word, "BLOG!". Written just like that. Except there may even be two exclamation marks added to it.
I know my colleagues are in the same boat. I mean, I hope they at least have it on their calendars! But really, I understand if they don't. Blogging can seem futile. Unlike Facebook, where everyone and their mom "likes" your status that took three seconds to write, a blog post takes thought. Am I being engaging? Do people actually care about what I'm saying? Getting a comment on a blog post seems harder than winning a Grammy.
Here at the Literacy Coalition, we started this blog to "put a face" to our organization. As an organization that doesn't provide direct support, you won't see us out in the community feeding the homeless and you can't come to our office to watch an ESL class in action, we thought a blog would be a good way for the community to get to know us a little bit. We wanted to provide a little window into the everyday work of the Literacy Coalition. A novel idea, if you ask me.
But as noted above, blogging seems to take a backseat. And now I'm asking you, readers, to inspire us. Should we keep writing? If so, what do you want to hear about? Scroll down through some of our older posts and tell us what you think.
September 16, 2011
August 31, 2011
One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up.
As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.
He came closer still and called out "Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?"
The young man paused, looked up, and replied "Throwing starfish into the ocean."
"I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?" asked the somewhat startled wise man.
To this, the young man replied, "The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don't throw them in, they'll die."
Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, "But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can't possibly make a difference!"
At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said, "It made a difference for that one."
Sometimes in my work I feel as though the issue at hand is too big for one person, or one organization, to make any difference. That we can't do enough to affect literacy rates because we don't have the support we need from the system. Or in regards to health literacy, that poor communication and lack of empathy for the low health literate patient is commonplace, and that no matter what we do, the change will be minimal at best.
This story, written by anthropologist, Loren Eiseley, reminds me that everything we do as individuals really does make a difference, albeit minor. But when all of our individual efforts are combined, these minor differences become much greater, lasting changes.
It's worth it, y'all! Keep doin what you're doin!
August 18, 2011
August 10, 2011
Today, we met with another small organization doing very big things for the Austin community. The meeting reminded me of how small organizations can have such a large impact, and it never ceases to amaze me how these groups are making the most of their resources. The literacy programs in our network also do this every day, and it’s their support and dedication that in turn makes our influence on the community possible.
It’s difficult for some organizations and companies to understand the dynamics of the small nonprofit world. It’s understandable that we find ourselves up against doubts about our capacity, and our ability to reach a large audience from those outside of the non-profit world. In a non-profit, you have to be creative and open enough to transform limited resources into valuable services. Unfortunately, good intentions don’t always make successful organizations, and several end up closing their doors soon after they’re opened.
I’m proud to be part of a successful, 9-person organization that does the work of a mid-sized company. From my time at the Literacy Coalition, I’ve learned that the mutual respect and dedication built among a small group of hard working individuals can make for a surprisingly efficient non-profit machine. At LCCT, we’re open to changes that will allow us to make a greater impact on the community. We’re supportive of each other. We base our decisions on the people we serve. We believe in a solid work-life balance. We’ve built the trust of local non-profits and for-profits alike, and as a result have a network that helps us reach a variety of audiences. These are the things that have allowed LCCT to grow its services exponentially over the last three years, and we have no reason to slow down.
Less can most definitely be more. If you don’t believe me, take another look our previous blog posts, our Facebook page, and our website. Now that you know a little more about our inner workings, you’ll see all of those projects we’re working on in a whole new light.
Now I want to hear from other organizations in our shoes. What obstacles have you overcome as a small organization playing with the big shots? What are you proud of? What advice do you have for other small organizations?
July 18, 2011
Now that we've got a full quarter of implementation under our belt, we're at the very beginning stages of seeing the fruits of our labor take shape. The ambiguity is gone, and we're growing by the day! We've brought on partners beyond the initial implementation team and we've trained almost 40 Learner Web tutors (affectionately referred to as CLICs or Computer Literacy & Internet Coaches). These CLICs have spent over 150 hours in the computer lab helping learners. Now that's a whole lot of giving!
June 27, 2011
But c'est la vie! I'm 25 (wait, 24!) and don't have any degrees above a BA...judge me if you will, doc. But I'm also a damn good trainer (excuse my french). And in my two years of researching health communication, patient-centered care, patient-empowerment, yada yada yda, I've become a subject matter expert. And in our research-based, half-day workshops that teach healthcare providers about the prevalence of low health literacy and their role in improved communication with patients, the providers learn A LOT! 96% of providers who attended our workshop reported increase awareness and knowledge of health literacy, and learned at least 3 communication interventions that they planned to utilize with their patients. I think those numbers are something to call home about.
So that's what I did. I talked to my mom about the ageism hangups I was experiencing and, per usual, she had some great advice for me.
"You have a unique knowledge, this health literacy thing that you do. It's obviously important and will help the doctors provide better care for their patients...maybe even save lives. If you go into the trainings with the mindset of, 'I have this knowledge that you all don't, and it's my duty to share it with you.' Then your age won't matter. You've studied this stuff because they don't have time to. And you're sharing it with them because you know it's important...and they'll learn that it's important."
June 24, 2011
- Remember that you are a perfect
fit for some agency/corporation out there. If you don’t get the first,
second, third, or even eighteenth job you interview for - continue to go
on interviews with your head held high. You are learning
something new at every interview. You will be better prepared at each and
- LOOK PROFESSIONAL. The interview is your first
and sometimes only chance to make a good impression. People that show up
to an interview looking disheveled don’t leave the interviewer with a
sense of confidence in your professionalism. Show your interviewer how
confident you are by looking them straight in the eye dressed
appropriately – slacks, appropriate length skirts, nothing to tight or
revealing. Don’t wear jeans – no matter what, no matter where. Don’t wear
tennis shoes. Wear something that you are comfortable in but be classy
folks! Carry a lint roller in your car – get the dog/cat hair
off of you on the way in! Iron your clothes whether you think they need it
or not! Sit up straight, don’t slouch … it will wrinkle your
- Interviewers CAN SEE YOU on Skype. Make sure that you have something
behind you that is blank or appropriate (i.e. beer signs and pictures of
your friends doing a beer bong are a bad idea for interview backgrounds).
Dress up for your Skype interview, at least waist up. Showing up to a
Skype interview in your PJ’s is not winning you any points!
- BE ON TIME. Don’t arrive too
early. When someone is conducting interviews, particularly for multiple
positions schedules are tight. If you get there more than 20
minutes early wait in your car. Arrive no more than 5-10 minutes early for
- Know what you have to offer. Be prepared for all the
basic questions – “What can you offer to us?", “What is your
strength/weakness?”… Know how you plan to answer these basic questions.
- Take time answering questions and
give depth. It's
better to answer slowly, accurately and with detail than it is to go on
and on or add "umm", “you know”, and "like" in between
every word. Give examples, even when people don’t ask – but especially when
- Don't wear perfume. I am personally highly
allergic to a lot of perfumes, as others are and in a small office
sometimes even a little is overpowering. There were a few interviews that
I had a horrible headache by the time my interviewee left the office
because of the perfume in the air. Take a shower, be clean and
don’t smoke on your way in to the interview. Just smell naturally nice!
- RESEARCH the place you are
interviewing with. When
someone walks in for an interview and knows NOTHING about your
company/agency it does not leave the impression that they really want to
be there. Know everything you can about the place that you can – Google
them, look for their partners, know what the job is and the programs that
they offer. Study for this like you study for a test in college to make a
- Have questions. Along with doing your research,
you should have questions about the job and about the supervision
prepared. Candidates who don’t ask questions also come across as
unprepared and unengaged. Questions show interest, prove again that you
did your research and help to make sure that the position is a good fit
for you. Not having questions communicates you don’t have any
interest in the company and are just looking for a paycheck. If
you have no specific questions make sure you have good general questions
like “What would be the three major goals in this position,” or “What are
some qualities of successful people at your group?” Sometimes
interviewers are more impressed with a candidate based on the questions
that they ask rather than the answers that they give… if you walk in with
good, insightful questions and show them that you did your research they
will remember you when you walk out the door.
- Closings are not just for realtors and lawyers. When you think about it an interview is about selling yourself. You want to be a good sales person – be the closer! Your goal for an interview is to get a job, or at least move to the next round so don’t walk out (or hang up) until you have made your final pitch. Ask what the next steps in the process are and what the decision-making timelines might be. Reiterate your interest in the position and why you are a good fit!
June 20, 2011
June 14, 2011
June 13, 2011
We’ve now got a Public Health Intern at the Coalition, so we’re looking forward to getting his expertise in this area out to the community! Until then, here’s a 10-question quiz to assess your understanding of recent health care legislation. The tool even ranks your performance against the rest of the nation! Come on… You know you’re curious!
What was your score? Were you surprised? Let us know!
June 2, 2011
Here's how my initial development meeting went down...
"So Peter (who admittedly has very minimal development experience), how would you like to take on the role of event manager, individual giving cultivation (huh, what's that!?!), and health literacy grants writing and management?"
"Umm, yeah that sounds good. Thanks." (Peter immediately heads to his computer to Google "Individual giving cultivation" and spends the following nights reading books on "The Benevon Model.")
Well, maybe it wasn't that simple...I mean, I did have a bit more to say than "umm, yeah that sounds good." But walking away from the meeting I felt like I was in a whirlwind trying to wrap my head around the new roles.
Although I came into this position feeling a bit nervous about my new jobs, I was fully supported by colleagues, board members and volunteers. Take the Literacy on Tap planning committee for example, our planning committee is comprised of a development coworker and our ED, two members of our board of directors (one of which is the chair), and three highly committed volunteers (who happen to be two close friends of mine and my gf). This eclectic group coalesced and planned the most successful event in LCCT history! Well, that's a bit of stretch considering the event hasn't even taken place yet, but I can say that with only three more days to prepare I'm feeling very calm and stress-free. I'm confident it'll be a great event.
I've been with the Literacy Coalition for 2 years now and I've come to realize that it's the collaborative effort on projects and unending support that allows me to really love my job. I know that on any given day I can reach out to colleagues, board members, volunteers and community members for guidance and collaboration, and they'll be there without hesitation.
May 30, 2011
I think we all go through periods of burnout. Times in our lives or work that where you are just too overwhelmed or too tired to feel like you can keep moving forward. I personally have not been burnt-out but I have been tired and like many of you have been working lots of extra hours and could easily let burn-out set in if I gave myself too much time to think about it! This book helped me develop a new energy for my work, and brought me to understand a little bit better how passion and attitude play into our daily tasks.
The book told a story to illustrate how work issues that we are all too familiar with - including employee retention, employee engagement and burnout - and deal with them in a positive, productive, meaningful way. There is a series of books in the Fish! family and I just ordered Fish! Tales from an internet bookstore, and borrowed Fish! for Life from a friend so I will keep you posted!! I am super excited to get further into this series and I plan to pass the books around the office too! I would highly recommend the Fish! books!
May 22, 2011
Your efforts are making a difference in our community, so don’t let them go unrecognized. No effort is too small! Tell us what you're up to and let us promote your commitment to improved health communication during National Health Literacy Month!
Here’s what we need to know: What are you doing to combat low health literacy? What projects or discussions has your organization started to address the problem in our community? Do you want to join the health literacy movement, but don’t know how to get started?
Comment and tell us about it! Let's put our heads together to make this Health Literacy the biggest Central Texas has ever seen!
May 18, 2011
- Almost 1/3 of American households still lack a broadband connection.
- Adults age 25 and older with college degrees adopt broadband at almost triple the rate of those with only some high school education (84% versus 30%).
- The broadband adoption rates for White and Asian non-Hispanics exceed those for Black non-Hispanics and Hispanics by 18% or more.
- 73.4% of employed Americans are broadband users, compared with 61.9% of the unemployed and 50.5% of individuals not in the labor force.
For those of us comfortable in this tech-driven world, it's hard to imagine just how wide the digital literacy divide still is. Let's make digital literacy awareness and education a priority in Central Texas--it can only make our community stronger!
May 10, 2011
And what's more, we didn't make this error on the certificates...
April 14, 2011
“I want to learn email and pictures, I want to use the computer to look for information and not fall behind on the internet.”
“Porque quiero aprender mas ingles y tener mas oportunidad en mi trabajo.”
“I want to learn to manage files in order to easily manage my small business in the future.”
"To be updated with the rest of the world. So when my kids ask me questions about anything, I can be able to say something positive and answer. Learning basic computer lessons can help me achieve part of it."If you can get online and find this blog, you can help the workers, small business owners, and parents in your community. Most tech-savvy people of my generation take their skills for granted, not realizing the amount or value of their expertise. By sharing your knowledge, you can share the opportunity and free information that the internet can bring. Volunteer to be a Computer Literacy and Internet Coach!
April 11, 2011
1. Partnership for Clear Health Communication’s Health Literacy: Statistics at A Glance is a great place to get the basics.
2. Low Health Literacy: Implications for National Health Policy-- for an added body slam of relevance.
3. The Health Literacy Discussion List is a low-maintenance way to keep posted on new issues and efforts in place to fight low health literacy. Plus, you can post your own questions or announcements to get some national input.
By Erica Schmidt, MSSW Intern
A mother’s literacy level is one of the most significant predictors of a child’s future success in school, and family literacy is one service that works to overcome that reality and increases literacy rates throughout Central Texas. Many family literacy programs exist throughout Central Texas, and the Literacy Coalition is working to gain a better understanding of them one-by-one.
A pre-analysis of seven of the larger LCCT family literacy providers revealed that these organizations strongly believe there is great need for program support in Central Texas. For that reason, we have been conducting a needs assessment with all family literacy providers over the past weeks.
Some of what we are looking at includes populations served, program content, best practices, availability of resources, challenges, as well as establishing a standard definition of family literacy through our five-county area. We are also curious to hear about the interest of providers to participate in the expansion of literacy services in Central Texas. All of this is important for providers and us to know as we build community capacities to ensure the success of family literacy programs.
So what is family literacy exactly? Family literacy programs are most effective when they deliver services through a holistic approach that empowers families by educating the children and parents together. Family literacy fosters an ability and readiness of families to interact with printed materials of any kind. The hope is that families not only feel confident in their literacy ability but that they promote it throughout their children’s lives.
April 8, 2011
Monday's Meet-Up will be from 12p-1p at the Carver Library Branch at 1161 Angelina, in East Austin. To RSVP please click here!
We hope to see you there!
March 24, 2011
Try using this video in one of your next lessons. I bet your learners will be engaged in the lesson, and the video will foster active participation and lively discussion! Good luck!
March 18, 2011
Enter the Learner Web! Through a nationwide partnership funded by the Broadband Technology Opportunity Program through the U.S. Department of Commerce, central Texans will now have access to this innovative, online system of self-paced learning plans. The aim of the partnership and the Learner Web is to increase computer literacy and broadband use among low-income, low-literate, ESOL, and other vulnerable populations. The learning plans focus on digital literacy and consumer broadband education where students will learn how to use computers, how to access broadband in their communities, and how to use the internet including email, social networking, and job searching.
We've just wrapped up the pilot phase of the project and are ready to offer the Learner Web at computer labs in and around central Texas. The initial labs will include the San Marcos Public Library and the Austin Public Library with plans to expand the program to over 20 labs the coming months. Stayed tuned as this exciting, new project breaks ground!
March 15, 2011
Interest Inventory Cards let students look at images and make associations: they depict people at work, a doctor, a person holding a map, etc. Participants rank them based on what’s important to learn in class vs. what’s less important. I’m amazed at how many different associations one picture can produce.
One picture on the cards has a little blond kid holding a boombox. People in the training have said this image represents music, technology, dancing, childcare, entertainment, spending money, and Justin Bieber. Now that I think about it, I guess those are all related.
Authentic materials are props to represent the real world in the classroom. A volunteer, Ray, uses an authentic toy cellphone to make an authentic imaginary phone call.
Hard at work planning an ESL lesson—this group’s topic was “Housing” and they did a great job. If you need to find a new apartment on craigslist, I highly recommend them!
Another group hard at work planning… wait, is that a Toblerone? This group is hard at work planning a lesson and eating a Toblerone.