Literacy News


635 Edgewood St. NE   Washington, D.C. 20017202-387-1772 (phone)202-588-0714 (fax)

      © Copyright 2013 - Literacy Volunteers and Advocates (LVA) - All Rights Reserved

Literacy News


by Literacy Volunteers and Advocates on 08/11/14

Veronica Jackson Bey is excited about the murder mystery she is reading. More than just a pleasant social hour, the summer book club Ms. Jackson Bey attends at Edgewood Terrace is improving her reading skills. 

"It's bringing me up to a higher level of reading," she declares.

LVA's learners were excited when summer book clubs were started to help boost their reading skills over the summer. 

This year, notes Leitha Wilson, Lead Instructor, the effectiveness of the clubs have been bolstered by using books published by Grass Roots Press, a Canadian publisher, specializing in educational resources for adult learners. Instructor Marilyn Lowry recommended Grass Roots Press to LVA. 

LVA's summer book clubs previously concentrated on the classics.While learners were excited reading them, they are finding this year's selections to be particularly meaningful. "Everybody can relate to the themes of the Grass Roots Press books and find their lessons transferable to their everyday lives," says Ms. Wilson. 

On a recent Tuesday morning, Ms. Wilson's class is showing great interest in a book called Play Money written for adult learners who are reading at a basic level. The story focuses on a woman, Terri, whose habitual overuse of credit cards and ATMs is propelling her toward bankruptcy. 

What helps to keep LVA learners turning the pages of Play Money is not just an experience with money that is common to too many Americans, but also that Terri finds herself with two potential suitors, her credit counselor and her friend, Brett, who has also expressed concern about how she handles her money. 

Ms. Wilson's class is learning at several levels.

Not only are they engaged in reading, they are learning about the dangers of overspending and the need for self-discipline regarding finances. Ms. Wilson is pleased that Grass Roots Press books come with downloadable study guides with questions to encourage critical thinking about the lessons of the stories. When Ms. Wilson prods her students to answer questions, she encourages them to do so using complete sentences that fully express their thoughts. 

During her class, Ms. Wilson asks, "What is going on with Terri's control over her money?"

Bernice Johnson responds, "She has not learned to manage her money."

"That's a good answer," says Ms. Wilson with a smile. 

It's not just LVA's Edgewood students who are benefitting from book clubs. Ms. Lowry, whose class at Wardman Court, has been reading The Stalker, a murder mystery. Ms. Lowry reports how energizing her students find the reading and the discussions examining the conflicts experienced by the book's characters which sometimes mirror their own. "We stayed an extra half-hour to finish the book," she recalls. 

Not only are LVA learners enjoying what they have been reading, but Ms. Wilson recalls one woman who find her club's selection so captivating that she asked, 'What can I read when I finish with this book?"

Ms. Wilson adds, "It's the love of reading that we hope to promote. So it is exciting to provide learners with adult-themed materials that they are enjoying." 


by Literacy Volunteers and Advocates on 06/24/14

Many LVA learners received recognition at this year's Tutor-Learner Recognition Ceremony but it was particularly uplifting for LVA staff to see those learners heralded for being the "Most Improved" for two reasons. 

It's great to see students do better and starting to achieve their true potential. But it's also great to know that changes to the LVA program are having the intended results. 

At the beginning of the 2013-2014 session, Leitha Wilson, Lead Instructor and Administrator, worked to reduce the student-instructor ration by recruiting new instructors to enhance LVA's existing corps. 

"Individual attention [to learners] is the tool for success," Ms. Wilson explains. "That way you can meet the specific needs of learners and maximize what they are able to retain." 

How has the emphasis on greater attention to learners and their needs worked out? Well, LVA learners are flourishing. 

Instructor Rafiu Bakare explains how his smaller Foundation II class, for learners with intermediate proficiency in reading, is proving beneficial to two students. 

Mr. Bakare takes particular pride in the progress exhibited by Nathaniel Howerton. 

Mr. Howerton's reading comprehension has improved, as has his vocabulary and his ability to recognize sight words. Particular attention was paid to phonetics. 

Throughout the year, Mr. Bakare provided Mr. Howerton with short paragraphs. Taking the paragraphs home and then writing short statements expressing his interpretation of the paragraph's intent, Mr. Howerton proved to be "religious in bringing back homework." 

Mr. Bakare also wanted his class to read the paragraph upon their return. OFten, Mr. Howerton would be the first one he called upon. 

"Nathaniel did not just do the homework. He sought extra things to do," says Mr. Bakare. 

Janet Daniels, also a student in Mr. Bakare's class, benefitted from the close tutor-instructor contact. 

Mr. Bakare recalls that Ms. Daniels would tell him what she was working on with her tutor,  Grace Terpstra. There were times that both the tutor and instructor thought the material was too advanced for Ms. Daniels. "We'd fall back." 

But the payoff was that Mr. Bakare would keep working with Ms. Daniels to ensure she knew her lessons cold. That enabled her to truly push forward. The result, Mr. Bakare notes, is that Ms. Daniels is more open to participating in class and responding to questions. 

"The one on one tutoring [Ms. Daniels received] and the small classroom was a paradigmatic shift," he says. 

Ms. Terpstra credits Ms. Daniels with experiencing  "a major breakthrough in her reading about a year ago. I believe it is mainly because of her attitude and perseverence. It is such a joy to see this happen and realize that tutoring and teaching at any age can bring success."

LVA learners and instructors are pleased with the results the smaller classes are producing. 

Mr. Howerton says, "The smaller class size is helping me. With a smaller class size you get more attention and more understanding." He believes that helps the instructors to better "understand where people are coming from and what level you are." 

LVA learner Kimberly Velvet, another recipient of the "Most Improved" recognition, also appreciates the smaller classes. Ms. Velvet contrasts the attention she receives in her LVA classes to the lack of it when attending school as a child. 

Ms. Wilson stresses, "We'll continue to keep the smaller classes and more individualized attention to our learners and their needs as long as we are financially able to do it. We want to help our students to succeed." 

LVA learners also receiving recognition for "Most Improved" include Dorsey Haywood, Henry Linton, Gloria Murchison, Dabila Quattra. Maria Rose Senghor, and Madeleine Senghor. 




by Literacy Volunteers and Advocates on 05/22/14

Buckle your seat belts and prepare to embark on a journey. Executive Director Rita Daniels announced at the Learner-Tutor Recognition Ceremony on Tuesday night that LVA's 14th Annual Write From The Heart is now available for purchase. 

Ms. Daniels noted that this year's theme is "Journey to Literacy." LVA learners wrote about how they have benefitted from the instruction that LVA and other literacy providers offer. 

Ms. Daniels expressed particular pride in the handsome cover designed by freelance artist Alimayu Oding. Mr. Oding's cover makes clear where LVA learners are heading. Highway signs proclaim "opportunity" and "winners." Studying at LVA means more than just attending classes but embarking upon a journey toward greater self-awareness and understanding  of the world and how it works. 

Reading the words of the LVA learners it becomes clear how very appreciative many are for the educational skills that many DC residents take for granted. Skills that are due in large part to to being raised in families with access to quality schools and instruction.   

Martha Lee Phillips, a learner with LVA, tells a story that is shared by all too many DC residents in which she expresses the difficulty she experienced with her schoolwork and the lack of help she received from parents who could not read. "I dropped out of school," she writes. Now, thanks to patient and persistent instructors, Ms. Phillips is hopeful that she will soon be able to master filling out job applications and the forms that she must complete at her doctor's office. 

The people who really need to know what learners such as Ms. Phillips are experiencing sit on the ANCs, the city council, and, perhaps, next year, even in the mayor's office. They determine whether adult literacy organizations should receive the funding that is vital to help ensure that LVA and other organizations can continue to help people like Ms. Phillips. They are journalists with large newspapers, TV and radio stations that cover this city and its government. They determine whether many DCers believe that all the city's residents are doing fine or that there are people struggling to do better for themselves and their families. 

Do learners like Ms. Phillips a favor. Purchase a copy of Write From The Heart. It only costs five dollars and can be purchased from the LVA office. Read it, enjoy it. Pass it on to a city official, a member of the news media, or a member of the school board. Let them know that many Washingtonians lack basic literacy skills and that many are striving to overcome this and hope to do better in life. 

When LVA learner Anthony Johnson, author of The Dum One, co-written with Ms. Beverly Green, spoke at the recognition ceremony about his own "Journey to Literacy," he noted that he had been raised believing he was "dumb" because he could not read or write. The illiteracy of his mother was passed on to him. 

Thanks to help from mentors and LVA, Mr. Johnson is a much better reader and writer and vows that the literacy endemic in his family has reached an end. 

It is a goal that the whole city of Washington should embrace. And if enough people speak up then DC will have to realize that no matter how high the educational level of some DC residents, many residents have yet to fully discover the promise of American life because they lack the basic literacy skills that are essential in our city. 

Its' not just the learners who need to have this city journey to greater literacy.  

LVA is thrilled to announce that two of its learners have
been featured on NPR (88.5 WAMU) as part of a five-part
series on Adult Education called Yesterday's Dropouts. The interview can be found by clicking the WAMU link below. We are so proud of our learners and their dedication to literacy.