BENEFITING: LITERACY INC
Literacy has been national concern since the mid-1900s. Too many children in America are segregated by low expectations, illiteracy, and self-doubt. But if we succeed in educating our youth, much of that success will follow throughout our country and in the lives of our citizens. Unfortunately, regardless of the literacy programs already initiated in many of our public schools by our government, illiteracy continues to grow at an alarming rate. According to a study conducted in late April 2015 by the US Department of Education and the National Institute of Literacy, 32 million adults in the United States can’t read above a fifth grade level, and 19% of high school graduates can’t read. According to the Department of Justice, “The link between academic failure and delinquency, violence, and crime is welding to reading failure.” Statistics back up this claim: 85% of all juveniles who interface with the juvenile court system are functionally illiterate, and over 70% of inmates in America’s prisons cannot read beyond a fourth grade level. According to UNICEF, “Nearly 1 billion people will exit the 21st century unable to read a book or sign their names and two thirds of them will be women.” Many of the United States ills are directly related to illiteracy. Here are just a few statistics: • Literacy is learned. Illiteracy is passed along by parents who cannot read or write. • One child in four grow up not knowing how to read. • 43% of adults at level I literacy skills live in poverty compared to only 4% of those at level V. • Three out of four food stamp recipients perform in the lowest two literacy levels. • 90% of welfare recipients are high school dropouts. • 16 to 19-year-old girls at the poverty level and below, with below average reading skills, are 6 times more likely to have out – of – wedlock children, who in turn will have below average reading skills or none at all. Reading is a complex cognitive process of decoding symbols in order to construct or derive meaning (reading comprehension). It is a means of language acquisition, of communication, and sharing information and ideas. Like all language, it is a complex interaction between the text and the reader which is shaped by the reader’s prior knowledge, experiences, attitude, and language community which is culturally and socially situated. The reading process requires continuous practice, development, and refinement. In addition, reading requires create cavity critical analysis. Consumers of literature make ventures with each piece, innately deviating from literal words to create images that make sense to them in the unfamiliar places the texts described. Because reading is such a complex process, it cannot be controlled or restricted to one or two interpretations. • 15% of the United States population has specific reading disorders. • 46% of American adults cannot understand the labels on their pharmaceutical prescriptions. . 56% of young people claim they read fewer than 10 books a year. • 50% of U.S. adults are unable to read an eighth grade level book. • 33% of U.S. high school graduates never read a book after high school. • 80% of U.S. families have not purchased a book this year. • 50% of books started are never read to completion. • 70% of adults have not been in a bookstore in the past five years. • 15% of U.S. students are dyslexic. Statistically two thirds of students who cannot read proficiently by the end of fourth grade will end up in jail or on welfare. Students who don’t read proficiently by the third grade are four times likelier to drop out of school. As of 2011, America was the only free market OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) country where the current generation was less educated than the previous one. Nearly 85% of the juveniles who face trial in the juvenile court system are functionally illiterate, proving that there is a close relationship between illiteracy and crime. More than 60% of all inmates are functionally illiterate. 53% of fourth graders admitted to reading recreationally “almost every day,” although only 20% of eighth graders could say the same. Reports show that the rate of low literacy in the United States directly cost the healthcare industry over $17 million every year. Due to these statistics and so many more, in 2007, Deborah LeBlanc, an author and entrepreneur started Literacy Inc, a 501c3 nonprofit organization. Our mission since inception is to fight the growing illiteracy rate in America’s teens by offering free motivational speeches, E readers, and most importantly hope to high school students nationwide. Although Literacy Inc.’s mission is to fight for America’s teens on a national basis, our founder has chosen to narrow her focus to her home state, Louisiana, until she has provided E readers for every how public high school in the state. The reasoning behind narrowing our focus is that 77% of fourth grade students in Louisiana read below the proficiency level, 85% of the students from low income neighborhoods are not proficient in reading, and 32% of eighth grade students are not proficient in reading skills at all. A decade ago as many as 80% of Louisiana’s fourth-graders were not proficient in reading, third worst in the nation. 10 years later, the rate improved slightly to 77% — yet the state is still third worst in the nation. For Louisiana’s lower income students, reading proficiency remains especially elusive. Why give Ereaders to students who are not reading in the first place, you ask? It is our belief that Ereaders, which accesses thousands upon thousands of free downloadable books, will provide a much wider variety of interesting topics for student to choose from, thus encouraging them to read. Regardless and unequivocally it is our goal, our mission, our life’s purpose to provide middle and high school students with hope, no matter their economic status. Realizing that just handing students an Ereader doesn’t provide enough motivation for them to use it, Deborah personally appears before auditorium-filled middle and high schools, telling students her story—how reading not only saved her life but helped to make her the success she is today. Having been raised in the projects by an abusive mother, fed by food stamps and much harsher realities of life, Deborah shares how books gave her the stepping stones she needed to climb out of that lifestyle instead of using that lifestyle as an excuse to be a failure in the future. All that said, we at Literacy Inc. realize that times have indeed changed since our humble beginnings. Aside from tougher economic times, especially for non-profits, we now face the issue of childhood bullying, which seems to be reaching an all-time high. And with it student suicides. While bullying can result in truancy, imaginary aches and pains, reduced appetite, shame, anxiety, depression and aggression are also frequent side effects. Bullying is a direct attack on the student’s status, their sense of belonging and core identity, and more often than not results in adding to their already low self-esteem. The effects of bullying often continue many years into adulthood and in some extreme cases targets have taken out their anger and despair through school shootings or by committing suicide. Ffor the school, the cost of bullying are countless hours consumed in tackling the problem that seems resistant to change; truancy, reduced student retention, low teacher morale, negative perceptions of the school by the wider community and parent hostility. The school campus becomes a place where many students are marginalized and where no one feels safe. As students become alienated from school, academic performance declines. Students who reported having been involved in bullying as a perpetrator, victim, or victim-perpetrator were more likely to admit having seriously considered or attempted suicide within the past year. Just like the new literacy programs implemented by many of the nation’s public middle and high schools have had little to no effect on the illiteracy rate in our students, many anti-bullying programs have experienced little to no effect, as well. There may be evidence of some control over the bullying on the school grounds but it says nothing about what happens to the perpetrator and victim once they’re off of school property. With this in mind, Literacy Inc. has chosen to implement an integral part to our literacy goals and that is an anti-bullying program that doesn’t focus on the bully. What does an anti-bullying campaign have to do with literacy? In short, if all a student is concerned about when in school is avoiding the resident bully or clan of bullies, the last thing on his or her mind is reading. And the reason behind not focusing on the bully? Well, let’s face it, telling a bully not to harass someone is like telling grass not grow. However, if the message heard by all is one of breaking the cycle and staying true to ‘you’, slowly but surely issues begin to change. Victimized students hear that they are good enough just as they are, that they don’t have to belong to a click in order to matter, and that if they stay true to themselves and stand firm in that truth, they will succeed in life way beyond their wildest dreams. Life has a way of taking care of its own. Those who continue to bully do so out of low self-esteem, but they are the only ones who can change that issue. The American Association of Psychologists states that a student whose sole intent appears to be harassing others on a daily basis does so due to low self-esteem. In order for them to know any enjoyment in life they have to see the misery of others. Where Literacy Inc. is concerned, we’re not only out to break the chains of illiteracy but want to break this cycle of bullying, as well. Our message is simple and our goal is clear-- Stay True to You – and grab your Ereader and read. Make something out of your life. Make it matter. Make a difference, not only for you but your future, and the future of your children and their children. Take yourself to a level higher than you ever thought possible so that you can show future generations that no matter what background you came from, no matter where you lived, how much you were bullied, how little money you had, how much abuse you sustained, you rose above it all and made it through to the other side with your head held high and money in your pocket. Deborah, a former victim of severe bullying, delivers her Stay True to You message around the country, and once the presentation is completed, she gives each student a “Break the Cycle—Stay True to You” silicone wristband as a reminder of her message. A reminder that by staying true to ‘you’ that student can lead the pack. For the time being, it may only be a pack of one, but that’s far better than following a herd of sheep who are running blindly towards the end of a cliff. We’re not so ignorant or zealous to believe that every victim of bullying will hear and understand the message given during the presentation. But we are confident that it will ring true and one day they will wake up and realize that all of the clicks they fought so hard to be a part of, all of the bullies who caused them so much pain during school are no longer in their lives and no longer matter. They will come to realize that the only person they can change and be accountable for is themselves. Our world has become an angry place. Angry adults, angry politicians, angry children. We don’t know that anyone can put a finger on exactly when things became so out of control. But we do know unless the cycle is broken, unless each one of us chooses to break that cycle, it will continue until we self-destruct. Middle school and high school are only moments in time in an entire lifetime. They bring us life lessons that are invaluable for the future. Those lessons can be positive or negative; it’s each student’s choice. Now that we’ve finished our little rant about literacy and bullies, please allow us just a few more moments of your time. Every Ereader, wristband, and presentation given to students and/or schools are given at NO CHARGE. The only way we’re able to do accomplish this is through sponsorships from corporations and donations from wonderful people like you. This basically means we have to count on you to keep our dream alive.