35 Ways Your Church Can Promote Adult and Family Literacy in Your Community
In my role as Coordinator of Literacy ConneXus, I help churches and other religious organizations to develop a literacy outreach program through technical assistance, networking, and training. The roots of Literacy ConneXus go back over 50 years to the development of the Laubach Literacy Center at Baylor in 1957. This Center was started in response to a challenge by President Dwight D. Eisenhower at Baylor’s commencement in 1956, and was housed in at least four departments on Baylor’s campus until funding dried up in 1968. Through this Center and its innovative first director, Dr. Richard Cortwright, many churches began literacy programs in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Dr. Cortwright used television as an instructional tool as early as 1958.
After a 20-year hiatus, I became first director of the Baptist Literacy Missions Center at Baylor in 1988. This Center continued in one form or another until 2002 when it essentially went dormant. In 2004, I was hired to form Literacy ConneXus with a view toward establishing similar projects on other university campuses. The School of Social Work at Baylor University supports literacy work through its Center for Family and Community Center via materials and networking. Literacy ConneXus is led by a multi-denominational board, although most funding currently comes from Texas Baptist churches.
I would like to share the following suggestions to promote adult and family literacy in your community:
- Identify and equip an “education advocate” in every congregation.
- Encourage celebration of educational achievement at every level.
- Create coalitions with other groups to promote educational issues.
- Encourage college students to serve as “educational ambassadors” with at-risk families.
- Provide training opportunities in cultural competency for literacy program leadership.
- Offer summer intern programs to provide speakers for conferences to address educational opportunities/resources.
- Support Even Start Family Literacy and Head Start parent involvement and parenting education programs in local communities.
- Honor teachers and literacy tutors for their work.
- Encourage youth to enter the teaching profession and to volunteer as tutors.
- Tap into the desire for biblical literacy to motivate adult participation in literacy programs.
- Encourage teaching of basic character, civic virtues, and civic involvement.
- Advocate for health education and health literacy in your community.
- Support thoughtful reform of public education.
- Encourage mentoring of at-risk children, youth, and families.
- Advocate for adequate funding of public education.
- Advocate for lifelong access to education as a basic human right, rather than an “extra” to fund through alternative revenues such as gambling.
- Create motivational experiences for adults and children together (family literacy).
- Support preschool and family literacy projects such as Books for the Border.
- Use your church’s library in nontraditional ways.
- Begin an English as a Second Language ministry.
- Begin an adult literacy program.
- Help adults earn their GED.
- Provide citizenship education.
- Sponsor computer literacy classes.
- Host financial literacy instruction.
- Develop family literacy programs.
- Provide parenting classes.
- Affirm churches who are creatively and successfully advocating educational attainment.
- Develop networks and partnerships among congregations to address educational issues.
- Assist high school dropouts in re-engaging in school through networks with schools and adult education programs.
- Encourage dropouts to consider an adult education program to prepare for vocational training or further education.
- Build partnerships between churches and at-risk schools.
- Build a collaborative partnership with a local adult literacy program that has access to government funds for literacy.
- Support or begin a Reach Out and Read program in partnership with a local pediatric clinic. (See www.reachoutandread.org)
- Support local libraries including those in churches and schools.
Above list based on:
Abriendo Puertas! Opening Doors for Hispanic Youth (Report of the Hispanic Education Task Force of the Baptist General Convention of Texas) and Public Education and the Church – Resolution #263 - The General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church.
Contact Literacy ConneXus for additional information about this list and how your church can further educate and promote literacy in your community. Or share ways your church is already doing one of these projects - firstname.lastname@example.org
Lester Meriwether is Executive Director of Literacy ConneXus, Inc., (www.literacyconnexus.org) which is headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas. He can be reached at (817) 696-9898 or via email: Lester@literacyconnexus.org.Sisters Push Each Other to Do the Extra Lap by Dora Espericueta The most rewarding teaching experience that I have had was the opportunity to teach two sisters that enrolled at the Pharr Adult Learning Center. While both sisters started at the pre-lit level, I did not start working with them until they were at the Pre-GED level. I started working with Elia first. She came to the Center with a very low self-esteem. She could barely make eye contact with me or anyone else. She was very soft spoken and shy. As her GED instructor, I was able to work with her on a one to one basis. Elia was able to express herself through her essays providing me the opportunity to feel her pain and depression. As time went by, it was obvious to everyone around her that she was gaining inner confidence. Her way of dressing, communicating, and physical appearance was so visible that you could see the metamorphosis from a cocoon to a beautiful butterfly. Her written thoughts and ideas helped me understand her more and allowed me to interact with her more freely. Working with her individually, allowed her to feel more comfortable in speaking or asking questions. Once she overcame her shyness, she became very determined to get her GED and set a goal to further her education. Eventually, Elia encountered transportation problems. Her only ride to class was her sister. Elia motivated Veronica to enroll so that she wouldn’t waste gas needlessly. By both of them attending, they could benefit from the program and better themselves at the same time. When her sister was promoted from the Pre-GED class to my GED class, I felt like this gave Elia more of an initiative or more self confidence. When her sister, Veronica, came into my writing class, it was like lighting a flame under both of them. I could see that they would work together and encourage and motivate each other. It was apparent to me that Veronica was different from Elia in many ways. She was more interactive, more sociable, and more approachable. This allowed me to use Veronica’s attributes to make Elia a stronger person. It was exciting to see that no matter what obstacles came their way, they both showed determination and dedication. Veronica was Elia’s only means of transportation and it was wonderful to see the family unity when it came to them having each other for support. I can honestly say that these two young ladies had to make many sacrifices and overcome many obstacles to achieve what they had set as their goal, to obtain their GED and enroll at South Texas College. Through perseverance they were able to achieve what they had both set out to do. They are both currently in their third semester at South Texas College and are well on their way to successful careers in Nursing and Education. About the Author Dora Espericueta is a native of Monte Alto, Texas. She is married to Robert and has three children. She has taught all areas of the adult education program. She holds a certification in Interdisciplinary Studies and Generic Special Education and has taught adult education for thirteen years. She is currently the Lead Instructor for the Pharr Adult Learning Center. Her passion is working with adults and motivating them to succeed.