Elizabeth Poulos, Our Summer Intern, Reflects on Her Time with The Literacy Cooperative

Liz blog postElizabeth Poulos interned with The Literacy Cooperative from May to July of this year (2016) as part of the Williams Alumni Internship Grant. The Williams Alumni Internship Grant is designed to allow students to engage in constructive and innovative projects which address significant needs, link knowledge and structural change within society. Ms. Poulos will be a sophomore at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts.

As part of her intern experience she worked on projects related to our early literacy initiatives. In the following piece she reflects on what she learned about the literacy crisis in our city as well as the important role literacy programs, like our program STEP, play in connecting the city to tools and resources needed to fight this crisis.

“Some Cleveland neighborhoods like Hough, Fairfax, Central, and Kinsman, have functional illiteracy rates as high as 95%.” I first came in contact with this statistic about a month into my internship at The Literacy Cooperative, when I was compiling literacy facts for their upcoming Corporate Spelling Bee. When I first read this I was surprised, not only by the gravity of the situation, but also its extent in neighborhoods with which I was familiar. How does one approach a problem when it was so widespread?

The more statistics I read, the more dwarfed my efforts as an intern felt in the face of the giant odds when fighting for literacy in Cleveland. Yet, upon further reflection, I realized that as someone working at a nonprofit, as someone fighting for a cause, you can’t let the statistics get the best of you. Yes, these statistics are incredibly helpful, and they can mark meaningful reform and progress being made in literacy policy in Northeast Ohio; but the moment when I felt most connected to the issue of literacy, and progress being made in the city, was when I read the survey responses of kids who had taken part in the STEP reading intervention program with the help of support from their school and The Literacy Cooperative. I had been learning a lot about the STEP program by reading about it on our website, rethinking the pamphlet we use about STEP, cutting and organizing different STEP packets, but nothing compared to the insight I got about STEP, and literacy efforts here in Cleveland, than the responses of those young scholars.

STEP, or Supporting Tutors Engaging Pupils, is a supplementary reading intervention tutoring program that TLC shepherded into the system’s of several Northeast Ohio schools, like George Washington Carver. STEP helps students by giving them a chance to practice reading, and to build their literacy skills with tutors who have been provided with the structure and tools to help their scholar’s soar. Although not all the scholar responses were positive (often STEP time infringes on the oh-so-popular recess time), what I sensed in every survey was the receptiveness, and eagerness of each student to try: to try and read, to try to learn, to try and build the literacy skills they will use for life. For many of these students, STEP helped meet this eagerness with quality tools and programming that provided clear positive results. What became clear to me was not that we need to work harder as a movement to get the scholars excited and eager to learn, but that the real challenge lies in providing the same level of energy in the resources they are given to improve their literacy, to give them the best possible tools to make those improvements. And that’s what The Literacy Cooperative does, and I think that’s what I found to be my true goal in my time there as an intern; to help the organization, and to help connect literacy efforts around the city with the tools and resources they need to make a real difference.

We Need You! Become a NEO Skill Corps Member and Make a Difference in your Community!


We need you!  If you have a desire to make a difference in your community- we need you! If you have a drive to impact those around you-we need you! More specifically, there are 435,000, one in two adults, in Cuyahoga County challenged to understand a job application, or directions for taking medication, or the best routes and times to catch public transit. They need you!  There are more than 120,000 adults over age 18 that do not have a high school diploma. They need you! There are 80,000 adults in Cuyahoga County that make less than $13 per hour with 50% making minimum wage. They need you!

NEO Skill Corps provides individuals opportunities to serve their communities through the AmeriCorps program, http://www.serveohio.org/programs/americorps/. When you become an NEO Skill Corps member you will be working with adults 18 and older in the Cleveland and Lorain communities. NEO Skill Corps Members assist adult job-seekers and entry level employees to advance their literacy and workforce skills by providing direct services in financial literacy, workforce development training, and basic skills instruction, including adult literacy. These are adults, who because of their low-literacy skills, have a difficult time finding and maintaining stable employment. The ultimate goal of this position is to help these adults find stable employment or to encourage them to further their education. There are a number of ways you will help achieve this goal, a few of the main ones are by helping them raise their skills scores that increase employment opportunities, teaching financial literacy to help create budgets and learn about credit scores and savings, assisting adults to find stable employment for themselves and their families.

We are currently recruiting for our 2016-17 NEO Skills Corps year.  The program year runs from August 2016 through August 2017. The positions are either full-time or part-time. Members are matched to host sites that are mutually agreed upon by the member and the organizations. Once assigned you will work at that host site for the entire year. Currently there are positions available at the following host sites: Towards Employment, Seeds of Literacy, West Side Catholic Center, Migration Services, Council of Economic Opportunity of Greater Cleveland and Lorain County Urban League.

To become an NEO Skills Corps member it is preferred that applicants have a Bachelor’s degree, or at least some college education; current college students are encouraged to apply. Those applying to become members should be able to work in high pressure environments, have some experience working with adult learners, and are able to work with a diverse population. Members needs to be organized and are able to consistently meet deadlines. Responsibilities include implementing and recruiting for a training program that focuses on financial literacy, adult literacy, and the connection to the workforce. Those applying should also have a working knowledge of Microsoft Office suite, more specifically Microsoft Word and Excel. Some data entry is also required. But the most important thing a member needs is a desire to help their community and the drive to help low-literate adults to improve their literacy skills, employment status and lives.

AmeriCorps benefits include a living allowance, medical benefits (for full-time members), student loan deferment, training, and eligibility for a Segal AmeriCorps Education award equal to the maximum amount of a Pell Grant.

If becoming an NEO Skills Corps member and helping low-literate adults in your community to gain skills to help them gain stable employment sounds like a position that is right for you then please email your cover letter and resume to sbuckner@universitysettlment.net. Those you help as well as your community will be grateful.

May 26th, 2016 PechaKucha Event: An Evening of Learning About the Great Literacy Programs In and Around Cleveland

On Thursday, May 26th, 2016, The Literacy Cooperative in collaboration with the Cleveland Bridge Builders, Class of 2016, coordinated a PechaKucha event. PechaKucha means chit chat in Japanese and is an event where presenters present 20 slides, each for 20 seconds, on a chosen topic.

The topic for our PechaKucha event was, “Helping to Improve Awareness and Literacy Education in Northeast Ohio.” There were seven presenters from eight different organizations around Cleveland who presented on their literacy based programs that combine literature, learning, and literacy with other fun activities. Presenters included: our Executive Director Bob Paponetti, who spoke about the history of The Literacy Cooperative and the work that we do, as well as, Elizabeth Geisse from America SCORES Cleveland, Pam Jankowski with Cuyahoga County Library in partnership with Parma City School District, Debi Abela from University Circle Incorporated, Mahogani Graves with Reach Out and Read/ Ready to Learn at MetroHealth, Daniel Hahn from Playhouse Square and Judi Kovach with Kids Book Bank.

The event was a great way to inform the community about programs and initiatives that incorporate literacy in unique ways that help both children and their families learn. The PechaKucha format provided a way to explore a number of different programs in one evening, giving the community a broad look at all the great work that is being done around our city to advance literacy.

Missed the event and want to experience it? Take a look at our Storify for a recap of the event with pictures and tweets.

Or click on the video below to watch the full event.


Want to learn more about the programs and organizations that participated? Check out some of our guest posts here on our blog. Or follow each of the organizations on their social media pages:


University Circle- Twitter and Facebook

America SCORES Cleveland- Twitter and Facebook

Reach Out and Read/ Ready to Learn at MetroHealth – Twitter and Facebook

Playhouse Square – Twitter and Facebook

Cuyahoga County Public Library – Twitter and Facebook 

Kids Book Bank – Twitter and Facebook

Parma City School District – Twitter and Facebook

The Literacy Cooperative – Twitter and Facebook 






Read Across America Day – March 2nd

 NEOReads2March 2nd, 2016 is Read Across America Day. It is a day, created by the National Education Association, where everyone across the country picks up a book and reads together. It is a day to raise awareness about the importance of reading and literacy. We at The Literacy Cooperative along with a number of organizations across the area are joining together to show the rest of the country how much Northeast Ohio values literacy.

Want to join in the celebration? Love to read? Understand how important literacy is to the growth and well-being of our city? Here are some ideas of ways you can show your love for reading on March 2nd!

  • Read Together– Grab friends, family members or coworkers, the books you are all currently reading and sit down and read together. Whether it is during you lunch break, before work or school or as a way to unwind at night. Show those around you how much you love to read and share together the joy of reading. Snap a picture of your group enjoying a good story and post it to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with #NEOReads. We will be liking and sharing posts and pictures all day!
  • Celebrate Dr. Seuss’s Birthday – Read Across America Day is also Dr. Seuss’s Birthday. One of the main ways many people, cities and organizations celebrate the day is by dong some fun activities to celebrate the wit and quirky writings of Dr. Seuss. Do you own or run a daycare? Are you a teacher? Throw a fun birthday party for Dr. Seuss, where you read one of his stories, act it out or make up your own silly and fun rhymes. There is no better way to celebrate a love of reading then celebrating a man who wrote some fantastic stories. Check out the Seussville site for some great ideas and activities, . Don’t forget to share the fun and festivities with us using  #NEOReads.
    Read Acrosss America Day St. Claire school (2)
  • Read 20 mins with your child – Reading just 20 minutes a day with your child can make a world of difference. Let them choose their favorite Dr. Seuss book or any other favorite book and spend some time together reading. Even have them dress up as their favorite character as a way to truly bring the story to life! Make it a daily routine!
Read Across America Day St. Claire School (3)

Kindergarten and First Grade Class of St. Clare School

  •  Sign up for the 2000 Days Pledge – More than anything else the first 2000 days from birth to kindergarten have the single greatest effect on a child’s life. Take the 2000 days pledge, and pledge to make the most of this time to ensure that your child will succeed throughout his or her life.

These are just some ideas. The most important thing you can do on March 2nd, is take some time out to read, either with a group, alone or with your children. Help us show the rest of the country that NEO values reading and literacy. We are looking forward to seeing all the      pictures and posts about the way you celebrate Read Across America Day with us on              March, 2nd, 2016.

Remember to share your reading pictures and celebrations with #NEOReads on Facebook,                                                 Twitter and Instagram. We will be sharing and liking posts all day!


sun_swooshHave you ever thought about how much you read on a daily basis? It is a skill many of us who are literate take for granted every day. Part of your morning routine may be taking medications. You read the label to know how much to take, when and with what foods. You read through a recipe in order to make your family a delicious and nutritious meal. On your way to work you read road signs in order to find your way quickly and efficiently. If you don’t drive you read the bus schedule so that you can make it to work on time.

Now imagine that you can’t read. You need a job but you can’t read the application.  You have three different medications to take but you can’t read the names, dates or times and cannot take them when you need to.  You can’t read the nutritional information on a package and thus can’t make the right dietary decisions for you and your family. Can you now see how difficult life would be if you could not read?

The Literacy Cooperative understands how important and essential being able to read and write is for everyday life. In Cleveland 66% of adult residents are low literate. In some Cleveland neighborhoods (Kinsman and Hough) the illiteracy rate is as high as 95%. These are statistics that beg for change and The Literacy Cooperative is working to enact that change.

This year The Literacy Cooperative turns ten. Twelve years ago, The Cleveland Foundation, The George Gund Foundation and the Martha Holden Jennings Foundation gathered together a broad spectrum of the community to seek creative and new solutions of low literacy and its implications. Over the course of 14 months the effort brought together more than 300 individuals representing 250 organizations.  The group came to a consensus on two key recommendations: develop an action plan and create a collaborative organization to carry out that plan.  This outcome showed that there were many service providers working with a number of individuals but there was no organization that was focused on the systematic changes that were are needed to advance literacy. The collaborative organization created to focus on these systematic changes became The Literacy Cooperative in 2006.

For the past 10 years The Literacy Cooperative has been working hard to advance literacy by raising awareness of the issue, promoting effective public advocacy and fostering a delivery system with maximum impact on the region. The three main focus areas The Literacy Cooperative works around are Early Literacy, Adult Literacy and Career Pathways, and Parent Engagement.

The Literacy Cooperative is an intermediary nonprofit, meaning we work with other organizations in order to direct systemic change. 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.  The Literacy Cooperative is working with a number of programs and pilots; for more information check out the rest of our website or come back here for further blog posts about these projects.

This is just a very quick and concise introduction into who we are as an organization. We are involved in many different aspects of literacy and are working on a number of initiatives. This blog will be one of our ways to help keep the community informed and involved! For more posts about the number of organizations and programs we support as well reading recommendations from our staff and even guest posts, be sure to bookmark this page and check back for updates!

Be sure to check out our other Social Media pages on Twitter, FacebookInstagram and Linkedin to stay up-to-date on future blog posts as well as everything else we are working on.

We want to hear from you.  How would illiteracy affect your day to day life? And what are ways you are helping to fight illiteracy in our community?