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#2GenCLE: Bringing a 2Gen approach to literacy to Northeast Ohio

While the 2 Generation approach to literacy has gained positive traction in recent years, many as of yet have not been introduced to this concept that is successfully changing the way families are served in communities across the nation. On Friday, May 11th, The Literacy Cooperative will be bringing 2Gen to Cleveland by hosting the 2Gen Literacy Summit, where we will explore family learning and service learning models first introduced at our Read Across America Luncheon on March 7th by Sharon Darling, President and Founder of the National Center for Families Learning.

So what does 2Gen mean exactly? 2Gen 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, 2Gen understands that early childhood and adult education are intertwined in the life of a family, and therefore need to be addressed simultaneously in a matter that includes the family as a whole. While traditional program models have generally treated early learning and adult literacy as separate issues, they have provided a somewhat fragmented solution to literacy improvement for families. The 2Gen approach considers the needs of adults and children in their lives together. It designs and delivers services that support improved economic, educational, health, and social outcomes on an integrated, inter-generational pathway.

According to the National Center for Families Learning, 2Gen empowers families to work, play, read, and learn together and as individuals. Parents develop simultaneously as learners, educational role models, and teachers of their children, while children experience positive gains in language, literacy, emotional, and cognitive development. In other words, when families learn together, learning becomes a shared activity that builds excitement around education in both children and parents. As parents gain literacy skills, their confidence in their own skills grows and becomes evident to their children. Likewise, as children watch their parents engage in education, they are inspired to do the same and to view learning as a positive activity that they can share with the adults in their lives. As a result, literacy becomes not only beneficial to each individual, but a bonding experience for families with lasting effects.

Many organizations nationally are currently providing learning programs for the entire family. An example of this might be a program where adults work on obtaining their GED while their children participate in age-appropriate learning activities in the same location, or an event where adults and children work on learning skills together. A model such as this eliminates the worry over childcare for adult learners who previously experienced this as a barrier to continuing education. It also provides added benefits to children as their parents learn skills to improve the economic well-being of the family. According to the National Center for Families Learning, there are a few key components to a 2Gen family literacy service. These include:

  • Interactive literacy activities between parents and children
  • Training for parents regarding how to be the primary teacher for their children and full partners in the education of their children
  • Parent literacy training that leads to economic self-sufficiency
  • Age-appropriate education to prepare children for success in school and life experiences

The Literacy Cooperative is committed to spreading the 2Gen approach throughout Greater Cleveland and Northeast Ohio, and invites you and your organization to participate in a day of discussion that will introduce the key components of a 2Gen approach and showcase local organizations that are integrating 2Gen into their programs. We will build connections, and solicit input for a 2Gen Call to Action. We hope you can join us for this exciting event that will feature Dr. Jeri Levesque of the Center of Effort LLC as the keynote speaker. Dr. Levesque evaluates family learning programs in Detroit and Flint Michigan, Louisville, Kentucky, and Kansas City, Missouri. We will feature Lynn McGregor of the National Center for Families Learning as our lunchtime speaker. Lynn was one of the key planners of the 2Gen work that started in Detroit, Michigan. Our expert panels include representatives from Invest in Children, Ohio Means Jobs Cleveland-Cuyahoga Count, The Centers, University Settlement, Cuyahoga County Public Library, Family Connections, Slavic Village P-16, Cleveland Metropolitan School District, and Literacy in the HOOD. You will have an opportunity to share your thoughts, ideas, and challenges in a facilitated breakout session that will be included in a community call to action. Join the discussion by registering here!

Financial Literacy in the Workforce by Teresha Sims, a NEO SkillCORP Member

I made a life changing decision in June 2017 to leave a job that I depended on as my safety net for 25 years to embark on an unknown journey. Passionate about workforce development, I interviewed for the service position with AmeriCorps NEO SKILLS CORP, an organization that provides services to low-income communities in the areas of Workforce Development and Financial Literacy. I had been interested in finding a way into this field for some time and I accepted the position within a matter of hours. My host site is The Council for Economic Opportunities in Greater Cleveland (CEOGC) and I teach inside of their existing Customer Service Certification Program, a six week program. I teach financial literacy five of the six weeks for a total of fifteen 1 hour workshops, and also teach in a four day Job Readiness Program, where I teach one day for 1 1/2 hours.

After attending training with my AmeriCorps manager, it was now time to perform my duties as a Financial Literacy Facilitator. I now had to determine how to incorporate the curriculum provided by my host site, AmeriCorps, with my own developed curriculum (approved by the host site manager and within the scope of AmeriCorps guidelines). My first day to teach class was the day after hire. What I didn’t know was this class was getting ready to graduate. That meant I had to teach 15 workshops in three days, give unit tests, and put together my presentations. I started the planning process with both curriculum, a few documents, the names and contact numbers of my other AmeriCorps members and AmeriCorps Manager, and some information from the past AmeriCorps member who held my current position the prior year.

Today, I have systems that I have developed, resources, researched material, sample folders for each workshop that mirror what I give to my class, a workshop schedule (my guide), workshop folders for each workshop that include my handouts and additional teaching points, 15 workshop/session curriculum, employees who want the information, people who receive individual coaching, and over 50 people who I have touched in some way with the information I have provided since September 2017. Beginning June 2018, I will start teaching Financial Literacy in the M.O.V.E.R.S (Millennial’s Occupation Vocation Education Resource Services) Program for young adults 18-24. This presents another challenge: “How do you get young adults to value financial information and understand why it should be important to them NOW?”

I have developed a passion for providing financial information to the community of people I service every day. I get so inspired when I see and hear how they use the information to improve their lives one step at a time. This proves the field of Financial Literacy is important to the lives of the people we can reach. I believe the field of Adult Financial Literacy is extremely important yet undervalued by most. The knowledge provided in a good financial literacy program can be life changing for many people. In my first workshop, I have my students start with the end in mind. For many of the students, this is the first time they have been asked to “Dream.” Some are reluctant, some are baffled, some do not know where to start, some are eager, and some think the activity is a waste of time (you can’t win them all). When I see the look on their faces as I present the material, I realize that I am empowering them, inspiring them, and giving many of them the hope that was lost or hope that never existed before in their lives. By the end of my first three workshops, most of my students know I believe in them. I realize, as the facilitator, I have to encourage many of them to believe in themselves.

As financial literacy professionals we must be able to reach people where they are in life if we want to truly change how people view the field of Financial Literacy and the professional within the field. For this reason, it is a must to find facilitators who are passionate about working with the population they service and truly seek to understand their issues and experiences.

A good Financial Literacy program should:

  1. Help people understand their current situation.
  2. Change the mindset that lead to their existing financial problems and behaviors.
  3. Provide financial knowledge to individuals that can be passed down to their children, grandchildren, etc.
  4. Give participants the platform to discuss various financial topics, share experiences, and learn new information.
  5. Help individuals determine their own financial destination and develop their own roadmap to reach that destination with the facilitator’s assistance.
  6. Introduce young adults to the knowledge early enough in life, so they can develop the mindset and ability to make informed decisions that will help them reach their financial destination. For some, this might be their first exposure to the financial information discussed in class.
  7. Show the more senior adults that it is not too late to think about their finances. A good program should also help them use the financial knowledge provided in the workshop to create a realistic financial destination for their lives.
  8. Offer some form of individual coaching opportunity if possible. For some people, finances are very personal.
  9. Encourage students to take ACTION.

I want to invite you to share your feelings about the nine reasons I highlighted above. I invite financial literacy facilitators to add to this list. This list demonstrates the true value behind a good Adult Financial Literacy Program.

After six months in the field, I can also identify a few struggles I have noticed and struggles that have been expressed to me during some of my workshops. The struggles are different for different age groups.

There are the 12 struggles I would like to highlight:

  1. Many professionals who service our student population fail to understand how the financial literacy field impacts their work with individuals and families.
  2. There is a vast need for more funding allocations/grants toward the expansion of financial literacy for people of all socioeconomic levels and all communities. There is a misconception that only low-income people are financially illiterate.
  3. There exists a great need to help people understand how having financial information and implementing what they learn into their lives can lead to better financial outcomes for themselves and their families. For some people, this translates into helping them build self-efficacy.
  4. One struggle facilitators might face is getting people to focus on implementing these practices if they do not have a job or income coming into the household.
  5. For senior adults, the struggle is getting them to first understand that it is not too late to do something to improve a bad financial situation. The second struggle is to get them to believe the information provided is still relevant to their lives.
  6. For young adults, the struggle is helping them to understand why they need to learn this information. Many young adults live for today. The need for future planning is a challenge for some young adults to grasp.
  7. Getting people to complete programs is a major struggle when they desperately need income to feed and provide a roof over their families’ heads. These people want work not programs.
  8. We often start much too late. Financial Education (as l like to call it) should begin as early as pre- school.
  9. We need to change the perception that only low-income people need financial literacy. I have many employees asking for the information for themselves. I had a doctor who felt he could use some financial education.
  10. We need to have facilitators who can act as a Peer-Coach. This person understands the experiences (that sometimes hold them back), struggles, and barriers that students face as they try to follow our recommendations. Some people need more than just the information if we want to see them succeed.
  11. Facilitators need accessibility to recommended local resources for issues beyond our scope of knowledge to share with the people we service, such as bankruptcy, consolidation, landlord/tenant housing assistance, tax advice, etc. All of these issues impact finances and a person’s ability to focus on the financial information we provide.
  12. It is often a struggle to get people to sign-up for a financial literacy only workshop or program. I am not an advocate for providing incentives to people to entice them to sign-up or complete a workshop or program that will benefit them at the end.

I believe we can work together to bring about meaningful solutions to these struggles. Here are some possible solutions I believe would make a great impact:

  1. Bring awareness to all stakeholders.
  2. The value of financial literacy needs to be highlighted to all professionals working with the people we service and financial literacy professionals need to be part of the conversation or preferably have a seat at the table. Some professionals may not be aware that at the root of their problem with the people they service is finances. It our job to make the connection.
  3. Financial literacy needs to be offered as part of an existing skills-based workforce program that lead to real job placement. Let people know that financial literacy is part of the program.
  4. Encourage employers to offer their employees financial literacy workshops. Many employees approach me for the information to use in their personal lives.
  5. Provide funding (grants) for communities and/or financial literacy professionals to develop workshops or special events in communities where financial literacy workshops do not exist inside existing community programs.
  6. Encourage facilitators to learn about and understand the lives of the people they service. Cultural competency is important when you are trying to direct people.
  7. Find people who are passionate about working with certain student populations and helping them grow economically. It helps tremendously when a facilitator believes in people even if they do not believe in themselves.
  8. Provide professional development opportunities for financial literacy facilitators that will help us to better serve the people we facilitate. There are many certifications we can take advantage of to increase our knowledge on the topics we teach in our programs. We need to connect with some of the associations that provide these certifications.
  9. Consider a contextualized curriculum for financial literacy when possible. Being able to make the connection for students will help them to see the value of a good financial education.

To learn more about NEO Skill Corps, click here

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.

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

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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 

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome!

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?