March 2nd was Read Across America (RAA) Day. This literacy holiday was created by the National Education Association (NEA) to motivate children and teens to read through events, partnerships, and reading resources with a different theme each year. This year’s RAA theme was diversity and inclusion. The Literacy Cooperative, along with our 21 partners, celebrated through showcasing local authors with virtual story times and author spotlights, promoting partner events, and a photo campaign on social media using our #CLEReads2022 and #ReadAcrossAmerica hashtags.
The 2022 campaign was a great success! Posts on Twitter were seen more than 5,000 times and we reached over 800 people on Facebook and YouTube. In addition to our partners and authors, families and local organizations joined in on the fun.
Save the date: Continue the celebration on May 25, 2022, at the Read Across America Celebration, more information to come.
We want to express our thanks and appreciation to all partners and authors involved in the 2022 campaign! They include: Oberlin Kids, Cleveland Heights and University Heights City Schools, MomsFirst, Cleveland Department of Public Health, Ideastream, Cleveland Metropolitan City Schools, Invest in Children, The Centers for Families & Children, Family Connections, Starting Point, Towards Employment, Cuyahoga Community College, Reach Out and Read, Division of Children and Family Services, Cuyahoga County Public Library, Rocky River Public Library, Cleveland Kids’ Book Bank, Literacy Innovations, Collinwood Reads, Dickens Reads, Cleveland Public Library.
The authors showcased by The Literacy Cooperative include: Megan Turner, Tricia Springstubb, Michael Samulak, Ebony Donley, Chanitta Westbrooks, LaShanita DeVese, Margaret Bernstein, Tatiana Wells, Sequoia Bostick, and Martinique Mims.
In honor of this year’s Read Across America Day theme being diversity and inclusion, The Literacy Cooperative highlighted several local authors who were either diverse in their identity or emphasized diversity within their work. Ebony Donley, Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) educator and owner of Literacy Innovations is one of the local authors in our spotlight.
Tell me about you.
Ebony Donley: I have been an educator for 21 years and have been with CMSD that entire time. I started a tutoring company seven years ago because I wanted to expand upon the things that I do during the school day. I began to notice that even though we were teaching the standards of what children needed to know, some students needed more help than others with certain concepts, prompting me to start my own tutoring company, Literacy Innovations.
How do you like being a tutor and how have you transitioned throughout that journey?
Ebony: I love every minute of being a tutor because I have the opportunity to use my expertise in a different way and tailor my lessons to a particular student. When being a teacher you are teaching to the masses, but when you are tutoring, you get the chance to learn a student’s strengths and weaknesses.
In regard to transitioning, I have not changed my focus much because literacy has always been my passion, but I will say that I have gone back further as it pertains to sight words. The need to go back further led to me writing my book, A Guide to Becoming a Better Reader Using Sight Word Practice.
What inspires you?
Ebony: I am inspired by teaching and learning but I am most inspired when I see a student whom I have helped excel in their studies. Watching a student’s confidence and grades soar continues to inspire me to keep going.
It is also important to mention that due to my educational family game nights, I have begun working with students across the United States, in states like Kentucky, Indiana, and even Georgia. Prior to the pandemic, at these events, I would provide parents with tips and resources and during the pandemic, I began posting resources for parents on YouTube and Facebook. Once things get back to normal I do plan to start these events back up because I love it and parents and children alike find them incredibly fun and helpful.
Could you tell me the names of your books and briefly explain why you decided to write them?
Ebony: I wrote A Guide to Becoming a Better Reader Using Sight Word Practice because I noticed a pattern of students from Kindergarten up to fourth grade struggling with sight words so I was giving parents resources on how to help them. This prompted me to write my book because I wanted it to be a guide to the parents. Comprehension Matters was written because I wanted to provide parents with additional information on how they could best help their children.
Both of these books were written with the intention of being a guide. When writing them I followed the states guides and provided figurative language, parts of speech, and more. I also provided an answer key, key terms, and a glossary to make it of more ease for parents. I give students an opportunity to use the concepts that they learn. It is a guide for parents to use to help their children become better readers.
What was the most difficult part about writing your books?
Ebony: The most difficult part was figuring out what exactly to put in the book; I have taught all grades so it was difficult condensing necessary information for parents while giving them the most out of their money.
Laureen Atkins is the Vice President of Strategic Initiatives at The Literacy Cooperative.
Recently, the Fund for Our Economic Future presented survey data detailing how employers are attracting new employees or keeping current ones. The data revealed that talent shortages are widespread, with 93.6% of employers facing shortages and saying that the pool of qualified applicants does not meet their needs. When further asked about the biggest workforce-related challenges, 85% cited recruitment, with more than half again mentioning the lack of qualified candidates.
With that many unqualified candidates, what are we doing to develop their skills to qualify for these opportunities?
Low literacy and numeracy skills, or the ability to work with numbers, are contributing factors to the number of workers who are underqualified. Advancing these skills is an opportunity to create more qualified candidates seeking new employment and who are interested in advancing in their careers.
As a community, we need to provide long-term investments for the adults with the lowest literacy and numeracy levels to give them the time and opportunity to have economic mobility. Employers have the opportunity to make short-term investments in literacy and numeracy upskilling, which can result in immediate career placement and advancement.
According to the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), a cyclical, large-scale international study, the current state of the workforce indicates:
- 54% of adults in Cuyahoga County are not at a proficient level of literacy.
- 64% are not at a proficient level of numeracy.
- The national average is consistent with Cuyahoga County’s.
Of the adults in the category of “not proficient,” 21% are at the lowest levels of literacy and 34% are at the lowest levels of numeracy. For these adults, it is difficult for them to read simple text, complete simple forms, or add and subtract. But what about the other adults included in these numbers who are not at the lowest levels? They could benefit from literacy and numeracy upskilling, and within a short period of time, be able to upgrade their skills to be job-ready. In fact, many semi-skilled blue-collar and white-collar jobs do not require skills beyond this “near” proficiency category.
Employers report offering training to current employees and hiring from within. PIAAC data show that the majority of workers not proficient in literacy and numeracy are employed. They have most likely adapted to their current duties but may face difficulties taking on new responsibilities. Therefore, these adults may lack confidence to apply for positions, especially if they know there is a pre-entry assessment or long period of on-the-job training. Offering training that integrates literacy and numeracy instruction provides an inclusive solution to those who need refreshers and are uncomfortable disclosing this information.
Together as a community, we can advocate to pool government and employer funding for adult education, workforce development and postsecondary education to integrate literacy and numeracy with occupational skills development. We can recommend to employers to bring literacy and numeracy advancement onsite, either through workplace literacy programs or incorporating literacy and numeracy refreshers with on-the-job training. We can advocate for government funding to reimburse employers that do not have sufficient resources but need these remedies to advance workers.
In addressing the labor shortage, we want to make sure the solutions are equitable and inclusive. Let’s simply include literacy and numeracy in any type of training. Let’s create a learning environment where unqualified candidates can learn what is needed to become qualified.
To learn more about integrating literacy and numeracy instruction into job training, click here.