Literacy

Dyslexia Awareness Month!

An image of blocks of letters all mixed up. People with dyslexia experience difficulty with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and poor spelling and decoding abilities.

An image of blocks of letters all mixed up. People with dyslexia experience difficulty with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and poor spelling and decoding abilities.

What is Dyslexia?

October is Dyslexia Awareness Month, a time to bring more attention to what dyslexia is and how best to work with those who are dyslexic. The International Dyslexia Association characterizes the learning disability as difficulty with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and poor spelling and decoding abilities. Consequences from dyslexia can include problems with reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge. Unrelated to a person’s cognitive abilities, dyslexia has many positive consequences, including helping individuals become highly resilient and adaptable, articulate and expressive of thoughts and feelings, empathetic, and having the ability to think outside of the box and see the bigger picture.

Who Is Impacted By Dyslexia and What Is Being Done About It?

The Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity states that dyslexia effects 20% of the population and represents 80-90% of those with a learning disability. Due to the prevalence of dyslexia, thirty-nine of the fifty states have introduced dyslexia related legislation, which are outlined on . The National Center on Improving Literacy website in detail. California, as one of these states, has a bill that requires guidelines to be prepared to assist teachers and parents in identifying dyslexia as well as provide improved educational services to these students. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) also provides the accommodation for students with dyslexia to have additional time to take exams, believed to be one of the most critical accommodations that allows students to succeed alongside students without the learning disability.

How Best to Teach Those With Dyslexia?

Structured Word Inquiry (SWI) is a method that is frequently used to teach individuals with dyslexia. Also termed Scientific Word Investigation, WordWorksKingston.com describes one of the guiding principles behind the method to be: the conventions by which English spelling represents meaning are so well-ordered and reliable that spelling can be investigated and understood through scientific inquiry. The Nueva school, a California-based school, summarizes the method into a few simple steps: The method starts with students brainstorming a way to define the word, using knowledge they already have. From there, they look at the structure of the word before diving into the etymology of the word as well as what the prefix, suffix, or base word is. Then, the students explore if there are any related words, before visually representing them in what has been termed a “Word Sum”. Lastly, the students debrief about what they learned about that particular word family. By going through this inquiry process, students learn more about the background of the word and are given the tools to learn new words on their own.

If you believe your child or student has dyslexia, but aren’t sure where to start, many of the websites listed below have additional resources. Another resource that is frequently cited by national and international dyslexia organizations is Overcoming Dyslexia by Sally Shaywitz.

Events such as Dyslexia Awareness Month helps to bring attention to the 20% of our population who have dyslexia. Through this additional time and recognition, students are given the opportunity to learn to read and succeed alongside their peers.

Sources:

https://dyslexiaida.org/definition-of-dyslexia/

http://dyslexia.yale.edu/dyslexia/what-is-dyslexia/

https://improvingliteracy.org/state-of-dyslexia/california

http://wordworkskingston.com/WordWorks/Structured_Word_Inquiry.html

https://www.nuevaschool.org/student-experience/lower-school/structured-word-inquiry

The Psychology of Reading

By Jennifer Van Pelt

An image of two children standing in a green field while reading books.

An image of two children standing in a green field while reading books.

Our minds go through an entire array of thoughts, feelings, and emotions while we read. There are also numerous background activities going on in the brain while we read that enhance literary experiences and can have both short and long-term effects on the reader.

What Happens While You’re Reading A Book?

To you, reading may just seem like a daily task, requiring you to repeatedly run your eyes across the page to get the information you desire. However, an article on the Open Education Database (OEDB) enumerates several other processes our minds perform in the background to allow reading to give us the knowledge and satisfaction we need.

The first on the list: visualization while reading is involuntary. The article states that visual imagery is simply an automatic reaction that doesn’t require an outside prompt. This allows the reader to simultaneously imagine whole new worlds as the words on the page slowly piece it together for them. Also mentioned in the OEDB article, our brain doesn’t make a distinction between reading about an experience and actually living it. The same neurological regions are stimulated despite if it is a real experience, or just reading about one.

What Happens After You Finish the Book?

Fiction books are meant to pull the readers in and create connection to the characters, empathizing with them in the process. After a few hundred pages of relating to the main characters, it can be tough when the book inevitably ends, severing the connection between the reader. In these cases, when you have been completely enveloped in a novel, people have said they experience a “Book Hangover”. These are generally experienced after those books you can’t put down, or after a cliffhanger conclusion. Although there is no science behind why people experience these literary “hangovers”, an article by Psychology Today summarizes three aspects of art in literature that can affect personality, long after you’ve closed the back cover:

  1. Reading fiction can give you social expertise, by allowing you step into the world of the characters and navigate through social situations with them.

  2. Literature can destabilize personality by enabling the reader to empathize through the ups and downs of the plot. This can in turn allow the reader to open up to their own inner experiences.

  3. Literature is an indirect communication method that encourages the reader to make inferences about how the characters are feeling. In the same way that people learn to understand how and why people feel the way they do, literature helps one understand in a similar way.

Words Alive knows that reading is not only an engaging activity for the mind, but it can have long lasting effects on the social and emotional side of the reader as well. We aim to provide the tools needed to underserved students and families so that they can fully reap the benefits of reading. If you would like to learn more about the programs that we offer and get involved, visit our page here.

Sources:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201501/how-reading-can-change-you-in-major-way

https://oedb.org/ilibrarian/your-brain-on-books-10-things-that-happen-to-our-minds-when-we-read/



Learning English as a Second Language

An image of four students in one of our Read Aloud Program sessions looking through a book together.

An image of four students in one of our Read Aloud Program sessions looking through a book together.

In 2015, there were 4.8 million students, or 9.5%, of students in the United States public school system reported as English language learners. This means they are people who are going through school learning English in addition to their native language, often times without any additional support other than immersion. This statistic from the the National Center for Education Statistics has increased by over 25% since 2000. Furthermore, California has the highest percentage of English language learners, at 21% of students in public schools -- this is more than double the countrywide average.

These English Second Language (ESL) learners have their own individual sets of challenges, beyond those that monolingual students face. In an article on EverythingESL.net, Judie Haynes, an ESL teacher with more than 28 years of experience and several publications, discusses the various challenges she has seen bilingual students face in literary environments. A main challenge she referenced is the fact that literature is culture bound, meaning that there is a certain set of stories and literary genres that English speakers are expected to know from an early age. These stories are then built upon in later learning, leaving those that were born into a different culture lacking the background knowledge to understand the author’s intent. Some other challenges that can also be overlooked for ESL students is understanding our metaphors, idioms, and other forms of figurative language, that also tend to be culture bound. Beyond that, word order, syntax, and sentence structure differ in English compared to other languages.

ESL students also experience some amazing benefits to being bilingual. Not only is this a plus for future employment opportunities, but school-age children have a different mindset about learning language in general. In an article published for Lamar University about the benefits of ESL, the following cognitive tasks, among others, were cited to be easier for bilingual students: developing strong thinking skills, using logic, focusing, memory, and making decisions. The article also discussed that these students utilize a blocking technique to focus on choosing words from one language while blocking the matching word from the other language. This same blocking technique is employed to ignore distracting information, allowing them to have a stronger focus. This can also be translated into social situations, allowing bilingual students to block out what they already know and instead focus on two different dissenting perspectives to have a better understanding of an overall issue.

As a Southern California based non-profit, many of Words Alive’s participants have learned English as their second language. We work with these students to ensure that they are able to further their critical thinking and literary analysis skills while using their personal experiences to help relate to the books and deepen their understanding of the text.

If you are interested in funding or volunteering for our hands-on literacy programs, visit our website here for more details on our upcoming Author’s Luncheon & Fundraiser!

Sources:

https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=96

https://degree.lamar.edu/articles/education/the-benefits-of-esl.aspx

http://www.everythingesl.net/inservices/challenges_ells_content_area_l_65322.php



What is Student-Led Education?

By Jennifer Van Pelt

What is Student-Led Education?

Teachers from the school site 37ECB stand in front of posters about facilitation tips that the students created together. Their semester culminated in a project in which the students were in charge of facilitating discussions.

Teachers from the school site 37ECB stand in front of posters about facilitation tips that the students created together. Their semester culminated in a project in which the students were in charge of facilitating discussions.

In the 21st century, we have access to millions of pieces of information in less than a second. This shift in immediate availability of information changes not only how the workforce operates, but also how we prepare students to enter the workforce. One of the ways in which some districts and schools are addressing this is to place less emphasis on the traditional teacher-to-student lectures and instead focus more on building skill sets of students that allow them to succeed in the demands of a technologically-savvy workforce.

By changing the focus from the typical teacher-to-student led classrooms, and instead focusing on empowering students to discover their own hurdles, find their own answers, and teach others their findings, students are being taught important life-long skills. In a publication by eSchool News that focuses on how to make the shift to student-led learning, the top 10 skills that are needed in 2020 as identified by the World Economic Forum were listed, including complex problem solving, people management, negotiation, and critical thinking, among others. However, these skills cannot be taught from a teacher, they need to be observed, practiced, and given feedback. The ability to learn from peers and find resources is the key difference in student-led education versus traditional teaching formats.

What are the Benefits and Challenges of Student Led Education?

Image of former ABG student, Daimeon, facilitating a book discussion with current ABG students at La Mesa Community School.

Image of former ABG student, Daimeon, facilitating a book discussion with current ABG students at La Mesa Community School.

There are multiple reasons why more of an emphasis is being placed on student-led education. As discussed in an article on teachaway.com that outlines the benefits of student-led learning, when students take the lead in teaching, they focus on ideas that interest them more, which paves the way for a deeper understanding and more enjoyment and fulfillment from the topic. Students also tend to relate to their classmates more, meaning they may pay more attention and even understand them better than they might a teacher. In this teachaway article, a pilot study from a university was cited in which students were given autonomy on how to structure the classes themselves in an effort to increase class attendance and exam performance. Student involvement and class attendance increased, which in turn improved the grades of the students in the pilot study. Similar teaching styles are being implemented across the world and to students of all ages to empower them to take more control over the learning process.

In the workforce, teachers are not readily available to answer questions and lead employees to the right resources. It is up to employees to find resources themselves from peers or online. Allowing this skill to develop while also enabling students to discover what interests them is becoming more important, as more schools shift to this methodology of teaching.

The Words Alive Adolescent Book Group includes book discussions, activities, and projects that are often times led by the student participants. This allows them to get comfortable speaking in front of others and encourages more involvement amongst their peers. If you are interested in funding these student-focused literacy programs, visit our website here for more details on our upcoming Author’s Luncheon & Fundraiser!

Sources:

https://www.teachaway.com/blog/benefits-student-led-learning-international-schools

http://foggs.ca/wp/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Making-the-shift-to-student-led-learning-white-paper.pdf

Sponsor Highlight: Moss Adams

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Words Alive's signature fundraising event is the Annual Author's Luncheon & Fundraiser. Celebrating its 15th year, the Author's Luncheon has featured world renowned authors such as Salman Rushdie, Jodi Picoult, and Isabel Allende.

Taking place each fall, the Author's Luncheon is attended by over 600 patrons that include book lovers, philanthropists, educators, civic organizations, and people invested in creating a more literate and thriving San Diego. This intellectual, elegant, and fast-paced fundraising event helps Words Alive raise over $200,000 annually, funds that make up a considerable portion of what Words Alive needs to continue serving thousands of children and families each year.

This event would not be possible without the support of our sponsors, the generous people, companies, and organizations who know how important literacy is for a successful and thriving community, and support our mission of opening opportunities of life success by inspiring a commitment to reading.

Moss Adams is one of the largest public accounting firms in the U.S., a spot they have earned through 105 years of offering accounting, consulting, and wealth management services. The company has earned several firmwide awards including three for being an exceptional workplace for women. Forbes also named them as one of the best midsize employers in 2017, as a company that makes their employees feel happy, inspired and well-compensated. Lastly, they have won six diversity awards in the last seven years.

Moss Adams also ensures they are making a difference in the world today. They do this by having commitment to their people, investing in their communities, and minimizing their environmental impact. The company and its employees volunteer in the community, serve on boards and make charitable donations to help build up the communities around them. Moss Adams has an extensive understanding of the issues foundations, their donors, and their for-profit entities often grapple with as well as the opportunities available to solve those issues. San Diego is just one of the several communities they have supported. Moss Adams will receive recognition on all wine bottles and champagne available in the Marketplace at the Author’s Luncheon & Fundraiser.

As the Beverage Sponsor, Moss Adams is helping Words Alive provide high-quality literacy programs to thousands of students and families in San Diego during the next school year.

We have many sponsorship opportunities still available! If you, or the company you work for, believes in the importance of literacy and is interested in helping Words Alive foster a more literate community, check out sponsorship details here. We have benefits available from social media promotion, to recognition on centerpieces, to the opportunity to announce our featured author, Mary Kubica, at the event!

Fund a Mind, Transform a Life

By Jennifer Van Pelt & Sara Mortensen

The 15th Annual Author’s Luncheon & Fundraiser is coming up on October 19th and this year our signature fundraising event theme is: Fund a Mind, Transform a Life. This event is important to our organization in many ways, but the most important is this: the Author’s Luncheon & Fundraiser provides a significant amount of our income and allows us to continue to deliver high-quality literacy programs all over San Diego. When you buy a ticket to the event, donate towards a silent auction item, or contribute in the ballroom on the day-of, you are helping us fund the minds and transform the lives of the students and families we serve.

Every dollar you donate at the Author's Luncheon & Fundraiser helps to fund the minds and transform the lives of the students and families we serve.

Every dollar you donate at the Author's Luncheon & Fundraiser helps to fund the minds and transform the lives of the students and families we serve.

Fund a Mind

Literacy is a foundational skill that is so easily taken for granted by many, yet nearly 450,000 San Diego County residents are considered illiterate. Literacy is a skill that is shown to not only have a relationship to someone’s socioeconomic status and earning capabilities, but can also transform one’s life by allowing them a well-rounded and fulfilling education that enables them to effectively communicate and participate in the communities around them.

According to the EARLY WARNING! Why Reading by the End of Third Grade Matters report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, up until the third grade, most children are learning to read. Beginning in the fourth grade, however, they are reading to learn, using their skills to gain more information in subjects such as math and science, to solve problems, to think critically about what they are learning, and to act upon and share that knowledge in the world around them. This turning point at the end of the third grade is why growing amounts of resources are being directed towards children in Kindergarten through third grade.

An image of one of our Read Aloud Program volunteers reading to a classroom at Golden Hill School.

An image of one of our Read Aloud Program volunteers reading to a classroom at Golden Hill School.

In fact, research like this is the reason why we have strategically designed our Read Aloud Program to target this age range. Reading aloud to young children is the most important thing we can do to help them become motivated, strong readers and in the Words Alive Read Aloud Program trained volunteers read aloud each week to approximately 4,300 children from early childhood education and Title 1 - eligible elementary school sites across San Diego.

Additionally, research from Yale University has indicated that three-quarters of students who are “poor readers” in third grade will remain “poor readers” in high school. Not surprisingly, students with relatively low literacy achievement tend to have more behavioral and social problems in subsequent grades. By focusing on providing additional literacy resources during these key years, it is helping to ensure that these children have the tools to succeed in following years.

Transform a Life

Effective literacy education needs to reach more than just the students that are between Kindergarten and third grade, however. An article published on WCNC states that reading to your child, even in the womb, can activate brain development, increase vocabulary by 24 months, and decrease risk of speech delay. Though this is a known fact amongst experts and doctors, not all parents are aware of the importance this holds on their child’s future success. Educating families as a whole on when to read to their children and what techniques they can use is equally important. Literacy skills can start building from an early age and are building blocks for reading proficiency by the end of third grade.

An image of one of the kids in our Family Literacy Program standing in front of a huge cutout of the Hungry caterpillar!

An image of one of the kids in our Family Literacy Program standing in front of a huge cutout of the Hungry caterpillar!

Words Alive’s Family Literacy Program aims to empower parents as agents of change and advocates for their families by meeting parents where they are and giving them the "ah-ha!" moments that lead to deeper engagement with their children. Parents in the program attend seven workshops, receiving approximately ten hours of parent education covering early literacy development topics specific to preschool age children. Each workshop includes a tailored information session and skill-building exercises for parents, a group story time, and guided activities for parents and children.

As we know here at Words Alive, literacy goes beyond the simple act of reading words off a page and interpreting their meaning. Dr. Berninger, Professor Emerita of Educational Psychology at the University of Washington mentioned in a New York Times article, “Literacy involves all aspects of language, including our oral language, what we hear and say, and our written language, what we read and write.” She called it “language by ear, mouth, eye and hand.” As children grow and  develop, they cannot be denied the resources that allow them to learn these skills.

All of our programs at Words Alive aim to , ensure that children are able to build the skills that can transform their lives and help them become well-rounded individuals with the power to change their communities for the better.

Simply put: Words Alive uses all donations to fund the minds of children, which helps them transform their lives. Join us for our Author’s Luncheon & Fundraiser, where you can enjoy a wonderful afternoon while knowing that your actions are making a difference in the state of literacy education in your community.

Click here for more information, and to purchase tickets or a table for the 15th Annual Author’s Luncheon & Fundraiser.

Sources:

www.aecf.org

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/16/well/family/literacy-builds-life-skills-as-well-as-language-skills.html

https://hechingerreport.org/how-to-help-struggling-young-readers/

https://www.wcnc.com/article/news/why-you-should-read-read-read-to-young-children/275-573777471

 

Meet Our Author's Luncheon Moderator: Dr. Seth Lerer!

Seth Lerer.jpg

Our 15th Annual Author’s Luncheon & Fundraiser is being held on October 19th and will feature best-selling author Mary Kubica. Once again, Dr. Seth Lerer will be joining to moderate the conversation with our featured author, and this year marks his fourth time joining us at our signature fundraising event! Since 2014, Dr. Lerer has moderated conversations with Anna Quindlen, Isabel Allende, and Salman Rushdie for the Author's Luncheon & Fundraiser.

Seth Lerer is a distinguished professor at UC San Diego, where he served as the Dean of Arts and Humanities. His studies and teachings focus on Medieval and Renaissance Literature, History of the English Language, Children’s Literature, as well as Shakespeare. He has several published works that focus on these areas, as well as multiple literature and teaching awards. He is a Guggenheim fellow, a prestigious award for those who have demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship and ability in the arts.

One of Dr. Lerer’s many pronounced works is titled Children's Literature: A Reader's History from Aesop to Harry Potter. His book outlines the history of Western Children’s Literature, looking at stories from Mother Goose fables to J.R.R. Tolkien. As a professor who has extensively studied, published, and edited literature-based works, we are excited to welcome him back to our Author’s Luncheon & Fundraiser!

Now, let's hear directly from him:

What first compelled you to work with Words Alive? Why do you continue to work with Words Alive on the Author’s Luncheon?

Words Alive shares many of my own professional and community goals: a commitment to developing literacy and a love for reading; a recognition that the human imagination matters; and a philanthropic mission to bring the magic of books to young people who may not have those books. Words Alive is one of those organizations that, I believe, is preparing young people to become my future college students. The Author’s Luncheon provides a wonderful opportunity for me, personally, to meet and talk with leading writers and to find ways of getting them to share their craft and their own devotion to the written word. The audience for the Luncheon is always receptive, and I hope that when the authors leave, they can recognize what a great reading community we have in San Diego and, thus, spread the word.

What is your favorite Author’s Luncheon memory?

There are so many: joking with Salman Rushdie about the satiric quality of our current lives; sharing the sensitivity of Anna Quindlen on life choices; and flirting with Isabelle Allende while discussing her stories of love and friendship.

What do you most look forward to at the Author’s Luncheon?

I most look forward to finding a point of contact with an author: finding out not simply what we have in common, but how a creative writer and a scholarly writer (me) can learn from each other about the meaning of books and the imagination. And, of course, doing all of this with some five hundred of San Diego’s most committed readers makes it fun.

What are you most excited to talk to Mary Kubica about after reading her latest book, When the Lights Go Out?

I have just started the book. But clearly, it is a work of suspense and narrative propulsion. I think it will live up to its arresting opening. I’ll look forward to talking with Mary Kubica about holding an audience, building reader interest, and shaping plot.

Why is reading and literacy important to you?

Through reading, I discovered myself. We all read not only books but the world: experience is made up of signs and symbols, stories and tales. We can aspire to be the heroes of our own novels. When I teach literature, I try to show how fiction is not a lie: it is the artful re-imagination of experience. It is a lesson in living and a goad to our creative understanding of the world.    

Secure your seat at the 15th Annual Author's Luncheon & Fundraiser today! www.wordsalive.org/authorsluncheon

Sponsor Highlight: Geppetto's

Image of the Geppetto's logo! The logo features a toy Pinocchio holding a sign that says "Geppetto's" with the tagline "a child's fantasy".

Image of the Geppetto's logo! The logo features a toy Pinocchio holding a sign that says "Geppetto's" with the tagline "a child's fantasy".

Words Alive's signature fundraising event is the Annual Author's Luncheon & Fundraiser. Celebrating its 15th year, the Author's Luncheon has featured world renowned authors such as Salman Rushdie, Jodi Picoult, and Isabel Allende.

Taking place each fall, the Author's Luncheon is attended by over 600 patrons that include book lovers, philanthropists, educators, civic organizations, and people invested in creating a more literate and thriving San Diego. This intellectual, elegant, and fast-paced fundraising event helps Words Alive raise over $200,000 annually, funds that make up a considerable portion of what Words Alive needs to continue serving thousands of children and families each year.

This event would not be possible without the support of our sponsors, the generous people, companies, and organizations who know how important literacy is for a successful and thriving community, and support our mission of opening opportunities of life success by inspiring a commitment to reading.

Gepetto’s, a San Diego staple, is a local toy store and a returning Promoting Sponsor for the 15th Annual Author’s Luncheon & Fundraiser!

An image of the various, overflowing toys available at Geppetto's!

An image of the various, overflowing toys available at Geppetto's!

Dubbed as a San Diego tradition, Geppetto's has been operating for over 40 years and is proud to be locally owned by the Miller Family. This magical world of toys started with an original location in Old Town, but has since grown into 10 storefronts, spanning from Carlsbad to Coronado. Products in stores range from the latest and greatest to classic toys, guaranteed to spark nostalgia within all adults. Their mission is for customers to enjoy their award-winning stores where they will find toys to inspire creative play for the whole family. Additionally, Geppetto's specializes in exceptional service for shoppers, offering complimentary gift wrapping daily and Toy Experts, happy helpers stationed in stores to recommend engaging age appropriate toys for children.

Thank you Geppetto's for supporting Words Alive with the 15th Annual Author’s Luncheon & Fundraiser! Promoting sponsors for this event not only receive recognition on press releases and printed collateral, but they help Words Alive continue to serve thousands of students and families in San Diego with high-quality literacy programs.

We still have many sponsorship opportunities available! If you, or the company you work for, believes in the importance of literacy and is interested in helping Words Alive foster a more literate community, check out sponsorship details here. We have benefits available from social media promotion, to recognition on centerpieces, to the opportunity to announce our featured author, Mary Kubica, at the event!

Sponsor Highlight: Voice of San Diego

Words Alive's signature fundraising event is the Annual Author's Luncheon & Fundraiser. Celebrating its 15th year, the Author's Luncheon has featured world renowned authors such as Salman Rushdie, Jodi Picoult, and Isabel Allende

Taking place each fall, the Author's Luncheon is attended by over 600 patrons that include book lovers, philanthropists, educators, civic organizations, and people invested in creating a more literate and thriving San Diego. This intellectual, elegant, and fast-paced fundraising event helps Words Alive raise over $200,000 annually, funds that make up a considerable portion of what Words Alive needs to continue serving thousands of children and families each year.

This event would not be possible without the support of our sponsors, the generous people, companies, and organizations who know how important literacy is for a successful and thriving community, and support our mission of opening opportunities of life success by inspiring a commitment to reading. 

Voice of San Diego (VOSD) is is an award-winning nonprofit news organization based in San Diego, California, and the Media Sponsor for the 15th Annual Author's Luncheon & Fundraiser! Laura Kohn, Words Alive Board Member and co-host of VOSD's Good Schools For All podcast, had this to say about both organizations:

"Words Alive and Voice of San Diego are both about helping San Diegans engage with the community through words and knowledge. The children and youth who benefit from Words Alive’s programs will hopefully grow up to be civically active community members who vote and participate in our democracy. And our local democracy will be healthier for them thanks to VOSD’s intrepid reporting."

Hear more from Voice of San Diego:

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Want to know what’s really happening in San Diego?

Concerned about how local agencies operate and make decisions about education, the environment, housing, or public safety?

VOSD's Morning Report logo, sign up here!

VOSD's Morning Report logo, sign up here!

Then check out Voice of San Diego’s Morning Report to learn more. As a Words Alive supporter and someone who cares about San Diego, we think you’ll enjoy reading it. 

Voice of San Diego is an award-winning nonprofit news organization that digs deeply into local issues and organizations that affect the public. Our mission is to deliver ground-breaking investigative journalism for the San Diego region and to increase civic participation by giving residents the knowledge and in-depth analysis necessary to become advocates for good government and social progress.

VOSD’s stories spurr officials to act, catalyze change, and enhance the lives of our fellow residents. Below are a few examples of how VOSD made a difference in our community in 2017.

PUBLIC HEALTH: VOSD Coverage Spurs City and County to Act on Hepatitis A

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Within a day of Lisa Halverstadt’s story describing county and city officials’ foot-dragging on a response to the Hepatitis A crisis, both entities announced they would take swift action. The story prompted public responses from elected officials and attention from national media outlets.

GOVERNMENT: SANDAG

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SANDAG Executive Director Gary Gallegos stepped down following a nearly yearlong investigation by Andy Keatts, that culminated in a brutal report from an outside law firm.

Legislation to overhaul the San Diego Association of Governments, written by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown earlier this month. The bill was spurred by our reporting on SANDAG’s faulty revenue forecasts.

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION

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A San Diego Superior Court judge sided with Voice of San Diego and found that San Diego Unified improperly withheld documents related to our investigation of former trustee Marne Foster. The case sets an important check on public agencies who try to keep public records from the public under the guise of exemptions to the California Public Records Act.

RECENT AWARDS

The San Diego County Taxpayers Association gave two awards to Ashly McGlone and Andy Keatts to honor their coverage of the Field Turf contracting issues and the SANDAG scandal, respectively.

San Diego Society of Professional Journalists recently announced Andy Keatts as 2018 Journalist of the Year for his investigation into SANDAG.

We have many sponsorship opportunities still available! If you, or the company you work for, believes in the importance of literacy and is interested in helping Words Alive foster a more literate community, check out sponsorship details here. We have benefits available from social media promotion, to recognition on centerpieces, to the opportunity to announce our featured author, Mary Kubica, at the event!

Is Literacy a Constitutional Right?

By Jennifer Van Pelt

A Words Alive graphic that says, "Literacy is the foundation of community and economic development. When everyone can read, whole communities thrive. We read to live full, independent lives. We read to...." The following list includes statements such as "apply for jobs that pay a living wage", "advocate for our families", and "vote or write to our elected officials."

A Words Alive graphic that says, "Literacy is the foundation of community and economic development. When everyone can read, whole communities thrive. We read to live full, independent lives. We read to...." The following list includes statements such as "apply for jobs that pay a living wage", "advocate for our families", and "vote or write to our elected officials."

A lawsuit filed in 2016 to establish literacy as a U.S. Constitutional right was struck down by a federal judge last month. The suit argued that Detroit students are excluded from the state’s education system, thus violating their rights under the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution. These clauses say that no state can deny any person life, liberty, or property without due process of the law and also prevents states from denying equal protection of the laws to any person.

An article from the Detroit News details the fact that though the Constitution does not explicitly guarantee the right to education, the Supreme Court has not confirmed nor denied it either. The judge also wrote that the case needed further supports to prove their case, which leaves room for this case to come back and be tried later to help support students from Detroit and across the nation.

Why Is This Case So Important?

In 2017, the US Department of Education found that 65% of fourth-grade children nationwide were not proficient in reading. When so many children have fallen behind before they are halfway through their schooling, it is difficult for them to successfully continue and complete their education. When looking at the high school completion rates, the National Center for Education Statistics states that for the 2015-2016 school year, 1 out of 6 students failed to graduate with a high school diploma within 4 years of starting 9th grade.

Without a high school diploma, finding a job that pays a living wage is increasingly difficult. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics for 2017 data, a full-time worker without a high school diploma earns a median weekly wage of $515, while a worker with a high school diploma earns $718. When these individuals are successful in high school and have the skill set to pursue higher education, they earn a median salary over double that of someone who didn’t complete high school: $1,189 weekly wages for those with a bachelor’s degree. This demonstrates how the literacy skills that are taught in early years of school can lay the entire foundation for the future of a child’s life. Currently, about 20% of adults in the United States are not earning a salary considered to be “a living wage.” Furthermore, applying for jobs and filling out employment forms also require reading and writing skills, making it difficult for these individuals to improve their situation.

A picture of a child in our Read Aloud Program holding the book "Are You My Mother?" while smiling.

A picture of a child in our Read Aloud Program holding the book "Are You My Mother?" while smiling.

By failing to provide the proper education for these children, the government may experience higher costs in healthcare as well. Literate adults have the knowledge and skills to seek out more preventative forms of healthcare including contraception use. According to debt.org, it is estimated that $18 billion could be saved annually if patients who have non-urgent/avoidable medical concerns were to take advantage of preventative health care instead of relying on emergency rooms for their medical needs. Emergency rooms are required by federal law to provide care for all patients, despite if they have insurance or are unable to pay, meaning that it is a popular choice for those who are disadvantaged.

There are countless more studies that show that illiteracy is connected to other undesirable life outcomes, including incarceration and reliance on public assistance programs. To illustrate, 3 out of 5 people in American prisons can’t read, and once they do leave the prison system, there aren’t any programs that allow them the opportunity to learn how to read in order to properly apply for a job. According to an article on The Observer, arming inmates with a solid education is one of the surest ways of reducing the rate at which they end up back behind bars after being released. The prison system is beginning to make moves to address these issues, but the real change needs to happen before these individuals are incarcerated by providing them with the education and tools to develop a healthy, independent lifestyle.

At Words Alive, we’ve created a “Why Literacy Matters” graphic (included above), illustrating how literacy is present in daily life and how necessary literacy is for living a full and independent life. Declaring literacy as a constitutional right would make these day to day tasks possible for everyone, allowing them to create a life for themselves that they are able to choose. Providing high-quality literacy education and opportunities at the beginning of these children’s lives is the start to building a generation that is able to accomplish their goals and achieve heights their parents were not able to. Because literacy tends to be “passed down”, meaning that it is difficult for an illiterate guardian to help a child read or do homework, it is important that the children today have the proper education and the right to break this cycle of illiteracy.

If you are interested in helping the literacy cause closer to home in San Diego, visit our volunteering page here.

Sources:

https://amp.detroitnews.com/amp/747738002

https://www.debt.org/medical/emergency-room-urgent-care-costs/

https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator_coi.asp

http://observer.com/2017/07/prison-illiteracy-criminal-justice-reform/