The Literacy Cooperative’s 2019 2Gen Summit

Energetic conversations filled the room Friday, May 24th, as The Literacy Cooperative hosted the 2nd Annual 2Gen Summit to support whole family literacy.

The 2Gen approach to literacy aligns and coordinates services for children, parents, and caregivers because research continually shows that a parent’s education level dramatically affects the educational success of their children. This method considers the lives of the adult and the child together to focus on the family as a unit as opposed to viewing the family as numerous individual service units.

Two-generation approaches focus on creating opportunities for and addressing needs of both children and the adults in their lives together. The approach recognizes that families come in all different shapes and sizes and that families define themselves.

The Aspen Institute

The Aspen Institute writes: “Two-generation approaches focus on creating opportunities for and addressing needs of both children and the adults in their lives together. The approach recognizes that families come in all different shapes and sizes and that families define themselves.”

Attendees networked with one another as Bob Paponetti, President and CEO of The Literacy Cooperative took the stage to introduce the 2Gen Community Call to Action to Address Our Economic and Social Gaps.

The Summit is part of a long-term Community Action Plan to involve organizations to commit to improving the landscape of economic and social inequalities through four steps: involving parents and family members to be a part of the planning process, expanding inter-agency knowledge among service providers, implementing formal referral strategies and shared databases among organizations and incubating a 2Gen programming pilot and tracking results, scalability and sustainability.

Robbie Lynn Lawrence-Willis, Director of Little Achiever’s Learning Center, Beatrice Patterson, CDA parent, student, and PRN staff at Catholic Charities, Linda Schettler, Director of the Early Learning Program for Catholic Charities, Qianna Tidmore, Manager of Universal Pre-Kindergarten for Cuyahoga County’s Invest in Children, and Alyssa Swiatek, Family Engagement Manager for Cuyahoga County’s Invest in Children, began the event with a poignant discussion of how providers can be 2Gen even when focusing mostly on early or adult literacy.

Swiatek is tasked with implementing 2Gen approach in Cuyahoga County, using the Aspen Institute’s model. More information can be found here.

Kenneth Hale, Director of Access and Community Engagement for Tri-C spoke with consumer educator Michael Lisman of Lisman Capitol LLC about Tri-C’s Saturday Family Academy. This is a “free, non-credit course designed to promote education, empowerment and success to the entire family.” Here, diverse families can participate in age-specific programming before gathering together at the end to discuss what they have learned.

The course is six weeks long, and the next semester begins this fall.

Michael Lisman (left) and Kenneth Hale (right)

Towards Employment’s Senior Project Manager Grace Heffernan and Senior Manager of Advancement Staci Wampler spotlighted their partnership in the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s MOVE UP program. With the foundation’s help, TE trains and places economically disadvantaged workers into Cleveland’s three biggest health systems. These workers make an average of $2 more than Ohio’s minimum wage ($8.55 per hour), and nearly a third of the class of 2017 has already advanced in their careers.

“It’s creating opportunities where they [clients] already are,” said Wampler.

When a caregiver has a stable income and lifestyle, not only will he or she directly benefit – but so will his or her children. 30% of students at community colleges are parents or caregivers who must balance work and childcare demands with school. Millions of children in childcare centers are there because caregivers or parents are working hard to improve their family’s economic security. But, children who have money saved in a college account are more likely to enroll in and graduate from college – even if the account has under $500 in it.

Goals and outcomes should be focused on both the child and the caregiver and must be embedded in policy to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty.

Christie Manning, Senior Program Officer for St. Luke’s Foundation, Adrienne Mundorf, Senior Program Director for the Sisters of Charity Foundation, Courtney Robinson, Manager of Education and Workforce Readiness for United Way of Greater Cleveland, and Emily Thome, Vice President of Third Federal Foundation closed out the event with a discussion from a foundation’s view. Funders look for organizations with sustainable business models, deliverable impact and a clear mission.

Attendees placed a note on where their work fell on the 2Gen Continuum.

NEO funders are very supportive of 2Gen strategies and continue to advance the concept through their work.  The panelists agreed about the need for collaboration and encouraged attendees to try to work together to grow their voice(s).  Funders also emphasized the importance of community voice and they will be looking for authentic community engagement as they continue to fund whole family, 2Gen work. TLC’s leadership is needed to ensure the 2Gen work happening in our different neighborhoods is connected to the 2Gen efforts in the entire county and linked to the community’s call to action. 

“The Second Annual 2Gen Summit revealed a strong appetite for establishing the 2Gen approach inter-agency collaboration,” said The Literacy Cooperative CEO Bob Paponetti.

“There’s a hunger there, but collaboration takes time. People need action, and that is why we want to bring this diverse group together,” he said. “Success comes from being comfortable and trusting one another. We need to understand when one of our partners succeeds, we all succeed.”

The next 2Gen Summit is planned for summer of 2020, but Paponetti said The Literacy Cooperative will provide ongoing working meetings and collaborative efforts until then. “You can’t meet too much,” he said. “The amount of engagement and participation in the room today proved that. People want to be here, and not just those in senior-level positions. Everyone wants to be involved and we want to help facilitate that.”

You can read our 2 Gen Community Call to Action plan here.

Special thanks to our 2Gen Planning Committee for continuing to support this great event.

Adult Education and Family Literacy Week!

In America, there are 36 million adults who cannot read or write at the most basic level. More than 60 million adults lack the basic math skills necessary to work a cash register or understand a bus schedule. Unfortunately, the federal funds budgeted only reaches 1.5 million. Adult Education is an issue that needs to be focused on now.

Next week (September 26 – October 1) is National Adult Education and Family Literacy Week. It is a week to raise awareness about the need and value of adult education and family literacy. This is an opportunity to elevate adult education and family literacy nationwide with policymakers, the media and the community.

The effect that an increase in adult education can have on a community is clear. Adult education gives the low literate and those without basic math skills a chance to find a job, launch a career, educate their own children and live healthier lives. The funding for adult education is a great return on investment; for every dollar invested in those services, a community gets back $60 in decreased welfare costs, tax revenue, and economic activity. It is clear that an increased awareness about the overwhelmingly positive impact of adult education services is needed.

Adult education does not only help low-literate adult to succeed and improve their lives but it also helps their children, families and communities. Children of parents with low literacy skills have a 72% chance of being at the lowest reading level themselves. They are more likely to get poor grades, display behavior problems, have high absentee rates, repeat school years or drop out. By working to increase awareness about the importance of adult education we can put a stop to this cycle.

Communities tend to overlook low-literate adults because their focus is primarily on children. By showing the cascading effect low-literacy in adults has on children and in consequence the community, you help raise attention and prompt action. Showing your community the positive effect increased adult education has on children as well as adults you are able to show your community that supporting adult education is crucial to building a strong and resilient community.

Next week is your chance to get involved. There are a number of ways you can bring attention to this important issue. Do you work with adult learners who have stories of success that you think others need to hear? Do you work for an adult education services agency that has helped change a number of lives? If so this would be a perfect time to share your students’ stories or your agency’s story. Nothing helps spark action more than hearing first-hand how the services have helped someone change their lives.

You can share the stories with our local newspapers, radio stations or news outlets. Develop a pitch and send it out; reporters love to promote individual stories.

Get the attention of local and state officials. Next week you can work with your students on writing letters sharing their stories with their local and state representatives asking for them to ensure that adult education is one of their top priorities.  (Find out how to contact your officials and representatives here: https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials). These official’s see facts and figures all the time, putting a face and story to these numbers can help drive home the point of how important adult education is and how it can help citizens succeed and a community thrive.  More importantly, your students experience civic engagement and use their writing skills to help themselves and others.

Make our community aware of the issue at hand by writing an op-ed piece. Tell our community why adult education is important, explain how it effects not only adults but children as well, share stories and develop the case for why it needs increased resources and support. A well written piece can spark not only interest but action in the reader.

Another important way to participate in Adult Education and Family Literacy Week is by sharing facts and statistics. Many people are not aware of the issue and don’t understand why funding and resources are needed. Many don’t understand that low literacy skills are directly linked to inequality, high rates of unemployment, lower income and poor health or that adults from poorly educated families are 10 times more likely to have low skills. Most do not know that a mother’s reading level is the greatest determinant to her child’s academic success. COABE and ProLiteracy’s websites have a number of statistics that you can share via your social media or through an email fact sheet. People cannot help increase awareness and thus increase resources and support if they do not understand the problem. You can help enlighten your followers and raise your community’s consciousness about the issue.

Here are some sample tweets you could use next week, be sure to include #AEFLWeek:

Join us for #AEFLWeek (Sept. 26 – Oct. 1) and help raise awareness about the importance of adult education and family literacy.

            230 billion dollars a year in health costs is linked to low adult literacy #AEFLWeek

            36 million adults cannot read at the most basic level but federal funds only reach 1.5 million of these adults #AEFLWeek

Children of parents with low literacy have a 72% chance of being in the lowest reading level themselves #AEFLWeek.

            Literacy benefits adults: Higher salaries, better job opportunities, higher savings & improved working conditions. #AEFLWeek.

            435,000 Cuyahoga County adults read at or below a seventh grade level #AEFLWeek       

            2/3 of Cleveland children are not ready for kindergarten when they enter school. #AEFLWeek

            Neighborhoods like Hough, Central & Kinsman have functional illiteracy rates as high as 95% #AEFLWeek

Adult Education and Family Literacy Week is a week to raise awareness in order too leverage resources to support access to basic education for the millions of adults who need it. Next week is a chance for you to raise your voice and to help adult education get the attention and thus the support and resources it needs and deserves.

COABE and ProLiteracy’s websites have some great toolkits and resources to help you to make the most of Adult Education and Family Literacy Week. Also be sure to use #AEFLWeek to connect with a number of agencies and supporters throughout the country and to see how others are celebrating this important week.