How are you using your literacy tool?
November 16, 2009
Hello DLC community!
This is Yashna, visiting guest blogger, and DLC fan for life. First- I want to say that no one at DLC got me to write this. This post is a surprise to them too! I am moved to write about all this on my own.
My work with DLC has created a deep belief and passion for the importance of literacy education. Since I left DLC a year ago I have been searching for answers or truths to many things and so far this year, where ever I go (18 cities and towns in the U.S. and 2 in India), what ever I do- the importance of literacy is a repeated life lesson– along with the importance of love (but that is a topic for another time).
Currently I am working towards building with hundreds and eventually thousands of other people towards the United States Social Forum in June 2010. I have been doing some reading and research in preparation for this because I am a bit nervous as to what strength and knowledge it would take from me and I want to be prepared. I have conjured up courage in part because of the inspiration of the everyday commitment students make by showing up to DLC.
I am writing today, not to talk about the amazing courage of AL, ESOL and TCA students, but to share an exert from some of my reading and research that has reminded me about the importance of literacy. I hope you enjoy this quote and that it helps you stay refreshed in your commitment as a student, tutor, staff or board member. What you do is important. Very very important. Thank you for helping to create a new world.
“I never ceased to envy and marvel at the fluency with which Jimmy wrote and the speed with which his pen would travel from the left side of the page to the right. When he came home from work, he would lie down on his stomach on the living room floor with a yellow pad and start writing. He would wake up mornings and dash off letters to the editor before breakfast. In the course of a meeting he would start writing and by the end of the meeting he would be ready with a draft of a leaflet or letter. When he was asked where he acquired these skills, he would say that it came from writing letters for the mostly illiterate people in the little town where he grew up. Like other blacks who developed into writers, he began as the community scribe. Just as his childhood writing served his community, every speech he made, every article he wrote as an adult came out of his experiences in the on-going struggle and was produced in order to advance the struggle. His passion for writing, I am convinced, played an important role is his development as a leader and a revolutionary theoretician. Blacks emphasize the importance of the oral tradition in African and African-American history, and rightly so. But the continuing review revision, and self-criticism that are necessary to the development of ideas depend on a written script.”
– Grace Lee Boggs Living for Change
There is so much fodder in this dense paragraph that reflects the importance of literacy! Jimmy, through the tool of literacy, was able to support his community from a young age. That support then developed, as his skills developed, into being the written voice of the people! What a gift!
Today functional literacy is defined in simple terms of reading and writing your name and some basic information. This is how some countries can say they have 99% literacy rates- when in truth- a 1993 investigation revealed that 40 to 44 million Americans had only the most basic (which means below a 2nd grade level) reading and writing skills (Kirsch, Jungeblut, Jenkins, & Kolstad, 1993).
True functional literacy is about not only decoding and encoding the words around you-
but the world around you!
Literacy is not inherit within us- it is a privilege that some of us had access to early on. How can we now share the gifts of our privilege? Being literate is not a given.
This is what I got out of this quote-
1- It reminded me about the importance of literacy- what it can do to change and enhance the life of an individual and the life of a community.
2- It gave me pause to gives thanks to the privilege I have of being able to read, write and speak English fluently. I gave thanks that not only did I gain this tool but have had a chance to develop it, and use it as I am doing right now.
3- Reminded me that literacy is a tool for change. Literacy is by no means a sign of intelligence- but it is a tool in our tool box. What are you doing with your literacy tool?
I hope you share some of my reflections and ponder on your own about this quote. Feel free to leave comments here on this blog about your thoughts!
If you are already involved with DLC- again, I hope this refreshes your commitment. Also, I give thanks for your involvement- whether a student, tutor, social worker, volunteer, staff, or board- thank you. What you do is very important. You are creating a new world!
If you are not involved in DLC and want to use the privilege of your literacy tool for change, there are many ways you can do this such as volunteer or read the wish list and see what you could donate to support our brave students.