The Literacy Cooperative’s 2016 Year in Review

Pictures from a number of events including, CLE-BEE, International Literacy Day, Read Across America Day, STEP tutoring program, and Teacher Academy.

2016 was a successful and busy year for us. Our mission at The Literacy Cooperative is to work to advance literacy by raising awareness of the issue, promoting effective public advocacy and fostering a delivery system to maximize impact on the region. Every year we center our work on these areas; this year we had some great accomplishments and put many things into motion for the coming years. Great strides and growth were attained in the expansion of our STEP tutoring program. Our social media campaigns for Read Across America Day and International Literacy Day put the issue of low-literacy into the spotlight. Our 1st annual Corporate Spelling Bee was a fun and fantastic night that brought the issue of low literacy to members of the business community. We began working with a number of partner organizations to create contextualized curriculum for adult learners. This curriculum will help low-literate adults access the training programs designed to give them the skills to obtain jobs to help life them out of poverty. The following post is a recap of all that we worked on, accomplished and set into motion during this year. This is a highlight recap, for more information on a specific topic, program, event or campaign be sure to follow the links.

 In Early Literacy:

Children need a strong foundation in order to succeed in school. If they start school behind, they have to play catch-up from day one with their peers. Reading out loud to children every night is a simple task that can do so much to help children be ready to enter school. If children fall behind they need support to catch up and to get back on track to graduate on time. In 2016, we entered a formal partnership with Reach Out and Read to support the program and link families to other literacy partners. Our STEP pilot helped more children increase their reading levels.  Both programs are designed to help children reach their full potential and succeed in school. The use of high school and college students to deliver the structured plan has additional benefits.



STEP (Supporting Tutors Engaging Pupils) is a volunteer based tutoring intervention developed by The Literacy Cooperative and a group of community literacy programs. The program is designed to structure the volunteer reading intervention in order to build reading and language skills in K-3 students who are below grade level in reading. The STEP model includes a strategic design, training of the volunteers, and the on-site presence of an educator to oversee the tutoring.

For the 2016-2017 school year, STEP will again continue to be facilitated in three school systems, Cleveland Metropolitan School District, Euclid, and Warrensville City School systems and included a formal relationship with John Carroll University (JCU). JCU provides student volunteers through their work-study program at two of our sites.

Over the year 2015-2016 school year, STEP served 61 scholars and trained 40 literacy volunteers, 25 of which were high school students. Over the year thirteen scholars achieved grade level or above, 32 scholars improved by 9-12 months and 16 grew 4-6 months. Our STEP program aims to help kids who have fallen behind get back on grade level so that they can succeed in school and graduate on time.


Reach Out and Read:

Reach Out and Read is an organization we have always supported throughout the years and this year started becoming more involved in. “Reach Out and Read is a nonprofit organization that gives young children a foundation for success by incorporating books into pediatric care and encouraging families to read aloud together,” as stated on their website. It makes use of the bond and trust created between a pediatrician and the family. Reading out loud to a child is a simple, yet extremely important step in the successful development of a child. The program provides books, tools and knowledge to parents to help them ensure that their children are ready to start school.

This year the Bruening Foundation facilitated and is funding a partnership between Reach Out and Read Greater Cleveland and The Literacy Cooperative. The goal is to maintain existing sites, explore opportunities to expand and to connect ROR to broader literacy initiatives. The first step was taken in September when we hired a Reach Out and Read coordinator, Lynn Foran. She is currently working to ensure that all sites have the books, training, and support they need to reach every child and parent with advise on the importance of reading aloud together and also connecting them to local literacy programs for further interaction.


Adult Literacy:

In Cuyahoga County there are 435,000 adults who read below an 8th grade reading level. To put that into perspective we could fill every seat in First Energy Stadium, Progressive Field, Quicken Loans Arena, Wolstein Center, Public Auditorium, Public Hall and Playhouse Square with the low-literate adults and there would still be 260,000 standing outside. These adults struggle to secure living-wage jobs because they lack the basic reading and math skills to enroll in the vocational training programs that would provide the skills employers are seeking. Low literate adults often spend more on healthcare because they can’t read medications or understand doctor’s suggestions. Their children are behind in school because they can’t help them with their school work.

Low-literacy in adults affects their entire family. We continuously work to bring awareness to this issue of low-literacy in adults and this year we began working on a pilot to create contextualized curriculum programs to help these adults gain the skills they need. Skills that will help them build successful lives for themselves and their families.


Talent NEO:

Talent NEO is coordinated by Towards Employment and is a regional initiative launched in Cuyahoga and Summit County. Talent NEO promotes and supports employer’s use of ‘skill scores’ as a point in their hiring process to increase the size of their applicant pool, improve retention rates and reduce costs.

TLC provides leadership and technical assistance to Talent NEO pilot by working with the Cuyahoga County upskilling locations. The upskilling locations work with individuals to increase their WorkKeys skill scores through classroom and computer-led instruction. When job seekers are below the required skill score levels, they can work with upskilling staff to engage in math and reading lessons to work to increase their scores. The tools and lessons have been contextualized to in-demand sectors such as healthcare and manufacturing. Contextualized curriculum uses authentic materials and activities that connect leaders to the occupation and industries they are interested in.

In its first year Talent Neo resulted in 1,461 participants completing WorkKeys assessments and 167 received upskilling services. These upskilling sessions were provided at 5 different locations throughout Cuyahoga County.


Advocacy and Awareness:

To understand an issue people need to know that one exists. Low-literacy is an issue that many do not understand the scope of. With our social media campaigns and events we strive to provide a voice to this issue. We use these campaigns and events to bring literacy into the spotlight and hold it in people’s minds. We spent the year increasing the awareness of the low-literacy issue so that more people understand why it is necessary for them to help and fight alongside us.


Read Across America Day:

Read Across America Day is a nationwide reading celebration that takes place on March 2nd each year. It coincides with Dr. Seuss’s birthday and is a day to celebrate, not only his life and work, but also the importance of reading. This year we took part in this celebration by asking citizens to snap a picture of themselves reading in groups and post it to their social media profiles with #NEOReads. We had over a 100 pictures shared throughout the day. So many people participated including the Mayors of South Euclid and Rocky River, Councilman Brancatelli, State Representative Stephanie Howse and Joyce Betty the representative of Ohio’s Third Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. We loved seeing all the great pictures and we loved even more that the celebration extended beyond our hashtag campaign. It was a great day celebrating a beloved author and showcasing how important reading is for everyone. To see some pictures from the day be sure to check out our Storify.



This year we started an annual tradition of holding a Corporate Spelling Bee to raise awareness not only about the work we do but also putting literacy in the spotlight while also having some fun. This year the bee was held on September 8th.  200 attendees cheered on 24 teams from across Northeast Ohio. The night was emceed by Betsy Kling, Chief Meteorologist from WKYC. Our readers were Mike Snyder, Sports Director from WTAM 1100 and Monyka Price, Chief of Education from City of Cleveland and the Honorable Judge John Russo was our judge. Mayor Frank Jackson and Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish attended and gave compelling speeches to start the night off.

The competition was fierce and fun with Baker Hostetler as the victors. It was a fantastic event that brought The Literacy Cooperative into the spotlight and raised awareness about literacy.

If you would like to read a recap of the event be sure to check out our blog post. If you want to see the event through pictures our Storify has a fun recap for you. Or if you would prefer to watch the event for yourself be sure to check the video on our YouTube channel.

We are already planning our bee for 2017. If you would like to join in the fun contact Elaine Yeip at for team registration information.


International Literacy Day:

International Literacy Day is another day where we use a hashtag picture campaign to raise awareness and get people involved and talking. International Literacy Day falls on September 8th and is a day where the world comes together to raise awareness about literacy and reading. Our theme for our campaign this year was “Recommended Reads.”  We asked everyone to take a picture of themselves with a book that they would recommend for others to read and to use #CLEReads2016 and #RecommendReads to show off the choices. Again we had great participation, including Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson, Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish, Councilwoman Phyllis Cleveland and Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Connie Schultz. During the CLE-BEE we also set up a selfie station where we got some great recommendations from attendees.

If you would like to see all the great pictures check out our Storify and if you are looking for a book to read be sure to check out the blog post with all the recommendations.


Bridge Builders:

During the winter and spring months we worked with the Cleveland Bridge Builders to highlight literacy programs throughout the city. Cleveland Bridge Builders is a program that prepares mid-career professionals of all ages for meaningful, fulfilling and impactful engagement in the community.

We reached out to a number of organizations and asked them to write a guest blog post about their program and future goals. The organizations that participated were Parma Adult Education program, Reach Out and Read/Ready to Learn from MetroHealth, The Children’s Museum of Cleveland, Playhouse Square, Boys and Girls Club of Cleveland and America Scores Cleveland. Each post gave a snap shot of the variety of literacy programs that can be found throughout our city, some from organizations that many may not have known about before.

To wrap up the campaign a PechaKucha event was held to highlight the organizations. A PechaKecha event is Powerpoint presentation format where someone presents on 20 slides for 20 seconds each. This quick format provides an opportunity to hear many different presenters in one evening. It is a great way to give people a glance at the information and spark their interest to find out more.

The event “Helping to Improve Awareness and Literacy Education in Northeast Ohio,” was held on May 26th of this year. We had some thought provoking presentations from: University Circle Incorporated, America SCORES Cleveland, Reach Out and Read/Ready to Learn MetroHealth, Playhouse Square, Cuyahoga County Public Library, Kids Book Bank, Parma City School District as well as our own executive director Bob Paponetti. The night was a great opportunity for a variety of organizations to come together and to learn more about the literacy programming that is available throughout Cleveland. See some pictures of the event in our Storify.


 Professional Development:

Every year we offer a number of professional development workshops for teachers. In 2016, 500 attendees attended 21 professional development sessions and 3 Literacy Learning Network sessions. These sessions always cover a range of topics. This year there were sessions on web-based resources, reading strategies for low-level learners, teaching grammar to English language learners, flexibility in the workplace as well as STEP-UP to quality sessions for early childhood education instructors and many more. This year we also co-sponsored a number of sessions with other organizations such as Seeds of Literacy, WVIZ/PBS Ideastream, The Salvation Army and the Refugees Salvation Collaboration. These sessions are free and aim to provide teachers with some new strategies and ideas to use in their classrooms.


Teacher Academy:

This year was our 6th annual Teacher Academy. Every year we hold a professional development retreat day where the goal is to learn best practices from the best resource possible, fellow teachers.

This year was the largest academy we have had to date with more than 100 K-2 teachers and administrators from CMSD and 14 First-Ring School Districts. 20 peer presenters from 10 school districts presented on topics varying from Looping and community engagement to STEM technology and reading and writing. We hope teachers attend the day looking to learn something and walk away with new ideas and new relationships with fellow teachers.


Speaking Engagements:

Each year we try to take part in a number of speaking engagements in order to get our message out about who we are and what we do to a larger audience as well as to build connections and share our knowledge and ideas with others.

At the Commission of Adult Basic Education (COABE) conference in Dallas, Texas, Bob Paponetti, our Executive Director and Laurie Atkins, Director of Adult Learning and Career Pathways, presented three different sessions. Bob presented as part of a panel to discuss ways for adult educators to get involved in the implantation of WIOA in their local areas. Laurie presented with representatives from Parma Adult Education, NewBridge, and Project Learn of Summit to showcase the Healthcare Contextualized Curriculum pilot at NewBridge.  Bob and Laurie presented a session on advocacy and awareness detailing the strategy TLC has used in the community in the past two years.

Laurie attended the National Skills Coalition Skills Summit in Washington, DC in February.  As part of the summit, Laurie and the Ohio Delegation went to Capitol Hill to meet with the Ohio U.S. Senators and Representatives.  The message to them was to increase adult education funding, support Ohio’s comprehensive case management pilot that connects TANF and WIOA programs to deliver better services to 18-24 year olds, and to support education and training pathways for TANF participants. As a result, adult education funding did receive a small increase, Ohio received all necessary waivers to implement the case management pilot, and there is increased interest in connecting TANF and low-level learners to education and training pathways.


That is a recap of our busy 2016. Our vision is to ensure that all children and adults in Greater Cleveland will reach their highest literacy potential for employment, self-sufficiency and life-long learning. Throughout 2016 we tried to do exactly that with the variety of events we held, campaigns we took part in and through the program and organizations we have supported. It was a year full of hard work that will continue on into 2017. If you would like to help us continue to work towards our vision and mission you can donate here, any and all donations are appreciated!