January 30, 2012

What Do You Mean by "Most Literate"?

Central Connecticut State University recently released the America's Most Literate Cities (AMLC), 2011 study. Drawing from a variety of available data resources, the AMLC study looks at the largest U.S. cities (population 250,000 and above) and ranks them according to six indicators: newspaper circulation, number of bookstores, library resources, periodical publishing resources, educational attainment, and Internet resources.

I enjoyed scrolling through the rankings, which could be divided according to each category. Austin ranks  #22.5 for 2011 – sharing the ranking spot with NYC, no less! Not so bad, according to AMLC.

However, as I continued to scroll through the AMLC list, some skepticism arose. Cleveland, OH was ranked as the #13 most literate city in the U.S.  In this study, Cleveland’s ranking is justified by the city’s “great library systems and strong newspaper/magazine circulations”.  

So, literate= presence of resources?

Why then, according to the Center on Urban Poverty and Social Change, are 69% of Cleveland residents functionally illiterate?

While the AMLC study examines the presence of literacy resources as an indicator for a literate city, it does little to address the disconnect between the presence of high resources and the unchanging low literacy rates in far too many U.S. cities.  

More than the presence of certain resources, we must also consider specifics about the quality and availability of these resources to individuals who are low literate.  Furthermore, we must continue to recognize the ways in which low-literacy is connected to almost every socio-economic issue in the United States.

Granted, a comprehensive assessment of literacy is no easy task, but one we must continue to tackle at all levels.  

Have you identified ways in which the quality and availability literacy services are connected to your organizational mission?

What are the primary resources in Austin that we can capitalize on by improving quality and accessibility of services?

The Literacy Coalition of Central Texas (LCCT) published a snapshot assessment in 2010 to assess current adult literacy need and community organizational capacities to provide services in Central Texas. Click here to view the publication via our website for more information.

January 24, 2012

Wake up, Austinites! Illiteracy = Poverty

Everyone was buzzing about the 2010 Census, and what kind of information it would bring us about the population changes we knew were happening in Central Texas. Well, after years of analysis and extrapolations by every federal department you can imagine, the data is clear; the number of people who are suffering from poverty is rising, and their lack of education has a LOT to do with it.

The most recent 2010 Census reports that nationally, about 20.1% of all households had income-to-poverty ratios less than 125% of the poverty threshold. Families in Central Texas are actually more impoverished than the national average. Now, in Travis County, one in three children is born in to an impoverished home. About one in five families in the Austin area is living in poverty.What you might also remember from other blog posts and reports of the Literacy Coalition is the statistic that one in five Austin area adults is low literate.


No way.

Research from the National Institute for Literacy clearly shows the connection of poverty and low literacy. Over 40% of adults with the lowest literacy levels are living in poverty, compared to only 4% of those with higher literacy skills.

I have a challenge for you! Talk about illiteracy every time you hear discussions about unemployment and poverty. Public dialogue is very focused on employment right now, yet public policy and funding continues to bypass literacy and adult education programming as an integral part of the solution to our economic crisis. Whenever you hear people talking about unemployment and the recession, share the 'one in five' statistic with them and tell them to learn more about literacy issues at the Literacy Coalition's web site:


Help Austin area residents to have a more informed, thoughtful public dialogue. That is the first step to climbing out of the economic mess we've gotten ourselves in to.

January 12, 2012

Twilight: First Blog

Sorry to fake you out: this post has nothing to do with vampires. It's purely a matter of timing that I'm crafting my first blog as an official Literacy Coalition staffer while gazing at one of the most stunning sunsets I've been lucky enough to witness in the big beautiful Texas sky. Some of you probably saw it, too. I got to watch it out of the window of my incredible new office (A304) at Pleasant Valley and Lyons Road. Though certain long-lived logistics of The Move continue to nip at my heels while I attempt to get other (actual) work accomplished, I am proud to say we are largely settled into our new digs, with a little extra room to spare for the new faces we look forward to calling coworkers in 2012. It's really something, what a little teamwork can do. If I let myself be honest for a second, I can admit that there's no way I could have moved the entire office by myself, even though on good days I might think otherwise. But with teammates, and a little elbow grease, we move physical objects that seem unearthly dense (I'm lookin at you, file cabinet), or transform attitudes that threaten the success of our very efforts to make things a little better for everyone. OooOooh - whoops, we just went meta. Our Literacy Americorps members are familiar with the phrase "Getting Things Done for America!" Isn't that what we're all trying to do, starting right here at home in Central Texas? Let's get things done! And why not work together to do it? Let's roll up our sleeves and pitch in to make things better. Who knows? Maybe when we're done we can all go get a pizza and throw back some cold ones. So here's to teamwork in 2012. And to vampires, even though they're mostly loners. They're obviously not going anywhere.