Literacy News


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Literacy News


by Literacy Volunteers and Advocates on 04/07/15

A recently released report from the US Department of Education's Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education demonstrates why the work that LVA and LVA volunteers do is so important.

"Making Skills Everyone's Business" details the need for "upskilling" America's workforce.

At LVA, many DC adults come to us to improve their basic reading and writing skills in the hope that it will help to provide them with a better foothold in the job market. The "foundation skills" of literacy, numeracy, and basic workplace protocols is extremely important. Unfortunately, too many DC -- and US -- adults are lacking in such skills and the result is not only poor employment prospects for those adults but even basic living skills.

Many Americans would be surprised to learn that, according to the 2012 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development PIAAC (Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies) survey, 17.5% of Americans ages 16-65 have low literacy. Even in DC, often heralded as one of the nation's most literate cities, the most widely cited data from the last decade found a similar percentage of DC adults with low literacy skills.

What's the cost?

The report notes the intergenerational problem of low skills.  Low skilled adults are likely to have parents with similar low skills. Even though many have completed high school they are often working for low wages.

 "Making Skills Everyone's Business" states:

U.S. adults with low levels of education who have parents with low levels of education are 10 times more likely to have low skills than are those who have higher-educated parents. This intergenerational link is much stronger in the United States than in other countries and suggests that skill gaps in childhood persist into adulthood.


Many low skill adults are in poorer health and do not believe that they have a say in their government.

Helping to improve the skills of those adults with low skills can not only improve their lives, it can help to set their children on a better path. The report states:

Several studies have found that when mothers with low education levels complete additional education, their children appear to have improved language and reading skills. These quasi-experimental studies have found these effects of increased maternal education only for mothers with a high school education or less who have participated in a variety of education and training services, including high school credential completion, occupational training, and college.

Given the concern expressed by many in DC about income inequality and lack of social mobility, more DC residents need to speak out about the need to ensure that adult literacy and adult education organizations are well-funded and serving the many people who desire to improve their basic skills.

That is why LVA works in partnership with other adult literacy and adult education organizations to ensure more DC adults can receive the education they need to improve their basic skills and improve their lives.


by Literacy Volunteers and Advocates on 10/31/14

Ms. Martha Phillips and her fellow LVA learners recently visited DC City Council, participating in Adult and Family Literacy Advocacy Week organized by the DC Adult and Family Literacy Coalition (DC-AFLC). 

Ms. Phillips, a native Washingtonian, had never visited the city council before. She participated in a meeting with Councilmember Muriel Bowser that emphasized the importance of keeping DC adult literacy programs funded. While Ms. Phillips did not speak during the meeting, she does have a story worth hearing and it is one that policymakers need to recognize. 

"I just thank God that I have a second chance. A lot of people think not being able to read is the end of the world. They make excuses for not being able to read. All they have to do is say, 'I need help' and doors will open."

Ms. Phillips was raised by parents who could not read. She dropped out of school even before entering high school. With her employment prospects limited by her inability to read, Ms. Phillips worked for a cleaning company before joining the housekeeping crew at Washington Hospital Center. 

Before her late husband became sick, Ms. Phillips had been participating in LVA's classes at the old YWCA building. By the time, she was able to resume classes, LVA had moved its offices to Edgewood St., NE. Thanks to help from a social worker at Washington Hospital Center who was able to locate LVA at its current address, Ms. Phillips is now participating in classes, honing her reading and math skills by attending classes four days a week at LVA's Wardman Court site. 

"Now I have improved so much," says Ms. Phillips, who is already setting her sights on obtaining a GED. "I just want to better myself."

Ms. Phillips wants city policymakers to realize that "reading is important for a whole lot of reasons" and that is why it is important that DC City Council will provide strong funding for adult literacy programs. 

She says literacy is the key factor in determining whether  a person can work in a higher wage position or one that pays low wages. It can be the difference between a person taking medication correctly or making a costly visit to the emergency room because they could not read the instruction label correctly. 

Despite the hard work put forth by LVA and other DC adult literacy programs, there are still tens of thousands of DC residents who lack basic proficiency in reading and math. That lack of basic skills hinders not just job prospects for those residents but also exerts a negative impact on their health care, financial security, and family relationships, and their own children's experiences with education. Many people with low literacy levels end up being incarcerated. 

Adults who are literate are better able to become responsible and productive members of our city. Funding adult literacy programs is really about making sure that people have the basic tool -- literacy -- that can help them and their children to lead better, more fulfilling lives. It's an investment that reaps dividends. 

LVA is proud to participate as a member of the DC Adult and Family Literacy Coalition. The third week in September is Adult and Family Literacy Week in Washington, DC.  



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." 

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.