This year was a great year of growth for The Literacy Cooperative! We relocated smoothly to offices within the Hanna Building, promoted Joan Spoerl from a part-time coordinator to full-time Director of Imagination Library, and hired Emma Keating as our full-time Digital Communications Associate.
This year marks some exciting times for Imagination Library! The State of Ohio approved $5 million to create the Ohio Governor’s Imagination Library Program (OGIL) to support the statewide expansion of the Imagination Library. The funds will be used to pay for one-half of the costs of books and mailing of the books. First Lady Fran DeWine has been leading this effort.
As of today, we are serving over 9,000 children in 28 different ZIP codes, most recently adding ZIPs 44121, 44124, and 44143.
TLC and the 2Gen Committee published the 2Gen Call to Action and gathered direct service providers, educators and administrators for a 2Gen Summit, where the plan was presented. A total of 78 people across 47 organizations participated. TLC worked with committee partners to foster 2Gen partnerships that resulted in the funding of two additional 2Gen pilots in Cuyahoga County. There are currently four 2Gen pilots connected to the committee and TLC will be working with them to track progress and successes.
XPRIZE Communities Competition
Between April and August, TLC led a team of local organizations and entered the $1 million Adult Literacy XPRIZE Communities Competition, a national competition that challenges organizations, communities and individuals to recruit adults with low literacy skills to download and use effective, convenient and private learning apps. Team LitFitNEO, consisting of partners in Cuyahoga and Summit counties, was among 46 competitors across the U.S.
The team spread the message to all adults to download and use the apps to advance literacy and to give our community the chance to win the competition and bring much-needed resources to advance adult literacy services.
On April 1, 2019, XPRIZE recognized the team for their innovative, feasible and scalable plan and awarded us one of 24 Milestone Awards, granted for best proposals.
TLC uses its professional development platform to share promising practices with the community. So far this year, we have provided 18 workshops, one national speaker engagement, our 2Gen Literacy Summit, our Teacher Academy and three learning communities to more than 700 attendees representing more than 100 organizations.
TLC continued its partnership with University Settlement for the operation of NEO Skill Corps. In 2019, an evaluation of NEO Skill Corps was published for services provided September 2015 through August 2018. The conclusion indicated the program was successful in reaching its performance goals. The program supported 3,867 participants at 12 sites across the city of Cleveland. As a result of the program, 79% of participants achieved their intended goal of finding a job, enrolling in training or tutoring, or completing work readiness programs.
Co-chairing the Slavic Village P-16 Employment Committee with Towards Employment, we led a manufacturing career pathway pilot in response to employers in and around Slavic Village needing entry and mid-level employees. Our first two cohorts resulted in 11 of 15 successfully obtaining the national certification and eight out of 11 placed at an average wage of $14.00 per hour.
One of the key successes highlighted from the Slavic Village manufacturing certification training program pilot was the use of the contextualized curriculum and the tutoring offered to participants to prepare them for the WorkKeys and the Certified Production Technician (CPT) assessments. The instructor indicated that participants passed their assessments due to this combination of assistance.
TLC hosted professional development sessions to provide instruction on the use of the contextualized curriculum. TLC’s inventory of contextualized curriculum now includes 40 hours of math and reading exercises related to IT/digital literacy and healthcare, and more than 150 hours of math, reading, science and social studies lessons related to construction and manufacturing. There are 150 instructors from Cuyahoga, other Ohio counties and other states with access to the curriculum.
TLC is actively working on refreshing the contextualized curriculum and adding curriculum for the hospitality sector.
Ohio Workforce Coalition and SkillSpan
The National Skills Coalition has selected the Ohio Workforce Coalition to join SkillSPAN, a nationwide network of non-partisan coalitions focused on advancing state policies that expand economic opportunities for workers and their families while boosting local businesses’ capacity. The Ohio Workforce Coalition joins the original 10 founding states and will receive a $25,000 grant to advance work throughout 2020. Read the press release.
TLC looks forward to its role as a fiscal agent on behalf of the Ohio Workforce Coalition. With this partnership and involvement, TLC will be able to further establish itself as a leading resource and advocate for literacy education inclusion in Greater Cleveland and beyond.
The Ohio Workforce Coalition brings three major goals to SkillSPAN, including building the skills of adult workers, working to meet the skill needs of employers, and strengthening the entire workforce system. Through this partnership, the Coalition will be better suited to accomplish its goals and build educational and career pathways for all Ohioans.
CLE-BEE (click here for the highlight reel)
TLC hosted its fourth annual Corporate Spelling Bee on Sept. 12, 2019, with a total of 27 teams of three which competed in four “swarms” – finance, community, legal and corporate. TLC received press coverage from Freshwater CLE and WKYC. This year’s final four were Benesch Law, Medical Mutual, ideastream and Tri-C, with Benesch Law taking home the championship.
Reach Out and Read
September marked the end of a 3-year Bruening Foundation grant that funded a full-time Literacy Cooperative staff member to support Reach Out and Read. Lynn Foran is now the executive director of Reach Out and Read Greater Cleveland and will continue serving the community from a new location at The Cleveland Public Library. Read our story here.
During her tenure here, Foran grew Reach Out and Read Greater Cleveland from 23 health system sites to 33 and facilitated the distribution of 86,000 new books and doctor-parent conversations. Children served by Reach Out and Read score three to six months ahead of others on their vocabulary tests because they are regularly read aloud to. Lynn also contributed to the launch and growth of Imagination Library in Cuyahoga County.
COABE (Coalition on Adult Basic Education) – TLC presented at the annual conference in New Orleans. The panel included the CEO of Academy of Hope Adult Public Charter School, the Research Director for Jobs for the Future and the Senior Policy Analyst from the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP). The topic focused on urban communities and how to help adults develop basic skills, family-sustaining employment to build stronger communities. Laureen Atkins discussed the development and use of the contextualized curriculum available through TLC.
Bob Paponetti made multiple media appearances on WKYC to promote the CLE-BEE, discuss Reach Out and Read, and make the case for advanced literacy. He made an appearance on WTAM to promote the CLE-BEE and was featured on their “CEOs You Should Know” list. Bob also co-presented at the Civic Leadership Institute’s Education Day with CMSD Superintendent Eric Gordon. Joan Spoerl was on Sound of Ideas, speaking about how to raise your children to be readers. She talked with a bestselling author from The New York Times about the importance of engaging children in reading from a young age. Laureen Atkins appeared on WKYC to promote the XPRIZE competition.
You can view or listen to our speaking engagements here.
TLC staff are members of several Say Yes to Education committees including, Kindergarten Readiness, Family Stability, and Post-Secondary Advancement. TLC staff continues to participate on the Ohio Workforce Coalition, the Open Door Collective, and the NEO Workforce Coalition to develop a coordinated agenda for advocacy and awareness. TLC also serves on Cleveland/Cuyahoga County Workforce Board’s Strategic Functions Committee.
Through the Open Door Collective TLC assisted in the publishing of several Can-Do Guides that provide ways for organizations and leaders to participate in strengthening basic skills in the workforce. Our work with the Ohio Workforce Coalition led to the SkillSPAN partnership that is highlighted on page three.
TLC hosted a Read Across America Day luncheon in March 2019 featuring Dr. Perri Klass, National Medical Director of Reach Out and Read (ROR). More than 170 attendees learned about her work at ROR and how she has trained thousands of medical providers in the ROR strategies of early literacy promotion.
We published our literacy dashboard, developed by staff and our Research and Evaluation Committee. The dashboard details the state of literacy in Cuyahoga County. We used this data to update our policy agenda for stronger advocacy in early literacy, two-generational practices/ parent engagement, and adult education/career pathways.
We continued to increase our presence on social media, adding a Facebook page for the Imagination Library Greater Cleveland with a special parent group for Imagination Library families.
For more information on our programs, follow us on social media – @literacycoop on all platforms.
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!
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:
- Help people understand their current situation.
- Change the mindset that lead to their existing financial problems and behaviors.
- Provide financial knowledge to individuals that can be passed down to their children, grandchildren, etc.
- Give participants the platform to discuss various financial topics, share experiences, and learn new information.
- Help individuals determine their own financial destination and develop their own roadmap to reach that destination with the facilitator’s assistance.
- 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.
- 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.
- Offer some form of individual coaching opportunity if possible. For some people, finances are very personal.
- 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:
- Many professionals who service our student population fail to understand how the financial literacy field impacts their work with individuals and families.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- We often start much too late. Financial Education (as l like to call it) should begin as early as pre- school.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- Bring awareness to all stakeholders.
- 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.
- 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.
- Encourage employers to offer their employees financial literacy workshops. Many employees approach me for the information to use in their personal lives.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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.