Literacy News

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Literacy News


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." 


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. 



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.