LVA's MS. PHILLIPS GOES TO CITY COUNCILby 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.