Sunday, September 03, 2006

International Literacy Day

Next Friday is International Literacy Day and September is Adult Literacy Awareness Month. There are a variety of activities in Rock County that will give you opportunity to participate. I'm sharing the press release from one of Wisconsin's best Literacy advocates, Michele Erikson. As she says, it depends on us.

August 23, 2006

For Immediate Release
Michele Erikson, Director
Wisconsin Literacy

Array of Activities Celebrate Adult Literacy Awareness Month
International Literacy Day – September 8th

There are numerous ways to celebrate International Literacy Day, September 8th, and Adult Literacy Awareness Month this September. Local literacy organizations, the Rock County Literacy Alliance and Wisconsin Literacy, Inc. will be sponsoring several activities that will help raise awareness around the state and in your community.

International Literacy Day was established by the United Nations in 1967 to promote awareness of the 800 million adults worldwide who lack literacy skills.
Nearly 40 years after the United Nations asked the world to recognize the lack of literacy skills, America and the world are still feeling the impact. Illiteracy affects almost every facet of our society, from our global and local economy to health care, crime, jobs, corrections, graduation rates and poverty. Many think of illiteracy as a socio-economic issue, effecting only the poor or immigrants, however low literacy rates carry a shocking price tag for us all.

Consider the fact that 19% or 785,682 Wisconsinites, age 16 or older, are not enrolled in school and do not have a high school diploma. Further, over 360,000 residents over the age of five speak a language other than English at home, with the majority of them possessing very limited English skills. Nearly 30% of Wisconsin’s population growth in the last decade stemmed from immigrants – 21% from people of Hispanic descent alone. Without language and literacy skills how will they fill the labor shortage as baby boomers retire? Our state has the worst graduation rate (50th out of 50 states) for African Americans. Low literacy skills drive up health care premiums, with $75 billion dollars lost EVERY YEAR due to patients’ inability to read prescriptions or follow doctors’ instructions. And 40% of America’s manufacturers cannot implement productivity improvements due to their employees’ lack of literacy skills. More adults are finding themselves left out and left behind as jobs are outsourced and manufacturing plants move south. So how do we continue to compete in the information-driven, global economy?

In Rock County a literacy alliance has been planning a Read-a-thon in Beloit and Janesville to read aloud on behalf of those who don’t read at all. The Rock County Literacy Alliance is a consortium of adult literacy providers including the Janesville Literacy Council, Stateline Literacy Council, Blackhawk Technical College, YWCA Hispanic Outreach Program, Beloit and Hedberg Public Libraries, Arrowhead Library System, and Wisconsin Literacy.

In Janesville the Read-a-Thon will be held in the lobby of the Hedberg Public Library September 8th, from 10 AM to 2 PM, as area dignitaries, celebrities, authors and other supporters of literacy will take part in the event as readers. Authors will be available for signing books and literacy facts sheets and book marks with information of the Alliance and where to find help will be handed out.

The Beloit event will be a Literacy Day Fair at the Rotary Center on the Rock River, featuring local press and a live remote from WGEZ radio. The Library will have a remote library card application process, food vendors will be serving lunch and State Senator Judy Robson will give greetings and participate as a reader in the Read-a-thon. Booths for literacy, the library and the bookstore will be set-up. Area authors will be present for book signings and readings. Other local officials, including some adult students, will be reading aloud from their favorite books. The Literacy Day Fair will also run from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

What can you do to help improve literacy rates in your community? Volunteer! Through the continued support of Verizon, Wisconsin Literacy and its member agencies will kick off the 4th Annual 900 Tutors in 90 Days Campaign. Literacy programs earn money through the Verizon grant for each new tutor, while community members have an opportunity to teach someone to read. Many local programs are recruiting and training volunteer tutors between September 8th, International Literacy Day, and December 8th. After an initial 12-15 hours of training, new tutors are matched with an adult learner to provide goal-oriented instruction three hours per week. To find a literacy program near you, visit and click on “Find.” For information on adult basic education programs through the Wisconsin Technical College System visit

As we celebrate International Literacy Day and “Adult Literacy Awareness Month,” there is something we all can do to strengthen Wisconsin’s workforce, families, and communities through literacy. Our state’s future depends on it.

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