May 29, 2012

Dumbing Down or Wising Up?

In light of the upcoming 2012 presidential elections, the push to “get out the vote” and the call for increased civic engagement nationwide, let us be reminded what a huge part literacy plays in all of this!

A recent study by the Sunset Foundation reported that today’s Congress collectively speaks at a 10.6 grade level. The study analyzes various cornerstone governmental addresses/publications and has assigned grade levels at which they were written.

  “…Whether you see it as plainspeak or you see it as a dumbing down, the data are clear: The overall complexity of speech in the Congressional Record has dropped almost a full grade level since 2005” (Drutman, 2012).

Plainspeak? Dumbing down?

Are these really the only two viable lenses through which we should view this trend?

If we look at current literacy trends, it is certainly worth noting that in Central Texas alone, 121,074 adults age 16 years and older struggle with reading or cannot read at all.

While some may say it’s dumbing down, maybe in fact politicians are finally wising up to the realities of their audience. I think we could all agree Congress has been speaking over the heads of the average American for years. Is it really such a terrible thing to start breaking down some of the overall complexity- a.k.a. - political lingo and jargon within our governing bodies?! How can we expect to be a government for the people by the people, after all, if the people do not comprehend?

Literacy is foundational for an individual’s ability to participate and engage with their community, whether it is to engage politically or simply buy groceries or fill out a job application. That is why organizations such as LCCT continue to work to expand the quality and availability of literacy services in Central Texas.

Check out how literacy services are shaping Central Texas by visiting our website to learn more about the specific partner agencies and programs we support.

May 8, 2012

Literacy is a GIFT

Did you know that just two weeks ago on April 23rd, sixty-two Austinites gave away over 7,000 books? For FREE?! That’s right, Austin took the prize for number of book givers per capita for World Book Night.

The mission: Get books into the hands of those that aren’t exposed to them.

I’m proud to say that I was one of those 62 givers, and my 30 books, John Irving’s “The Poisonwood Bible,” went to the individuals and families living at SafePlace. That night books made the rounds to all sorts of haunts, some predictable (like Book People and public schools), others not (like handing out books to Goodwill shoppers, unsuspecting street strollers, and a local drum circle).

I don’t have any snazzy pictures to accompany my book-giving prowess, so I’ll pass the torch to one of my fellow book givers who sums up her experiences nicely in, “rather be reading.”

May 2, 2012

The Gauntlet is Thrown: A Health Literacy Instructor Challenge!

Fresh from the Health Literacy Department - One of the best ways to teach health literacy and patient empowerment in the ESL, ABE or GED classroom is to guide your learners through their development of a personal health journal. A few years ago we developed the Doctor's Visit Toolkit. Inside, we provided general tips to be an empowered patient and templates for learners to practice completing common forms they'll see in the healthcare setting. Together with learners, we work our way through the Doctor's Visit Toolkit and upon completion, we encourage learners to bring it with them as a reference tool the next time they go to the clinic or hospital.

Through mid-July, we're challenging our Central Texas instructors to take on the Doctor's Visit Toolkit with their learners. Use it as an ongoing project that learners work on over several weeks. Once you've completed the activity with your class, send us an email with a sample of the journal you've created. Literacy Coalition employees and advisers will choose the top three models and share them in our next quarterly newsletter (scheduled for release on July 15th). The creator of the top journal will also have a featured article in the newsletter (distribution to 1000+ people) and win a prize package valued over $50!

Much of what you might include in a health journal can be found on our Resources Page. Email Peter if you don't have the 1st Edition of the Health Literacy Instructional Manual yet (that will be a great resource to get you started!) or if you'd like some templates of medical forms that were used in the Doctor's Visit Toolkit.

Things you might include...just to get you started:
  1. Medication schedule chart
  2. Medical history form
  3. Family history
  4. Sample insurance form
  5. List of key vocabulary for navigating hospital or doctor's office (e.g., information desk, emergency, pediatrics, physician, etc.)
  6. AskMe3 and other recommended questions to ask the doctor or nurse
  7. Patient-empowerment tips
  8. And much more! Talk with your students about what they want to learn regarding health information and get creative!  
Good luck and don't hesitate to call or email Peter if you have questions or want some resources to get you started!