Published on 09/23/2023

Adult Education and Family Literacy Week 2023 Op Ed

Adult Education and Family Literacy Week 2023

Thank you to Governor Carney, First Lady Quillen-Carney, Secretary of Education, Dr. Holodick, Dr. Annie Norman, State Librarian, Wilmington Library Director Jamar Rahming and other elected officials involved in the signing event of the Proclamation of September as Literacy month and recognizing Adult Education and Family Literacy week Sept. 18th-22nd.  Your commitment to literacy across the lifespan speaks of a determination to create a path forward for all Delawareans left behind because of their inability to read proficiently. As Co-Chair of the Delaware Literacy Alliance with Dr. Norman, we believe literacy is the key to solving many if not all the problems we face today in our communities. The Delaware Literacy Alliance was formed to bring together all stakeholders from across the landscape to build a collective force like no other, to create a 100% literate Delaware. It will take libraries, teachers, government, healthcare systems, businesses, educational systems, childcare systems, individuals, families, religious organizations, workforce development organizations, non-profits, and philanthropy to work together as a united, cohesive system to combat the alarming low literacy rate of our children and adults. This issue did not develop singularly, nor will it be solved singularly.  We will all need to roll up our sleeves and work collectively to break down the walls of low literacy.

One of our learners once described her inability to read even a child’s picture book as being in a room with no doors or windows. More days than not, she felt “boxed” in, as those walls kept closing in on her.  She learned about Literacy Delaware, registered, and began working with one of our amazing, trained volunteer tutors. Beginning to “break the code” and learning to read, she excitedly later reported that “my walls are coming down!” Another learner along his journey towards reading proficiently stated “now I feel like I am somebody, I am proud of who I am and that I can be self-sufficient.”  

For our adult learners, it is not always about a grade level on a test. Improving their literacy skills is about changing their life and gaining access to the literate world and all the benefits that access brings. For “John”, who entered the Literacy Delaware program unable to read basic sight words, it was most importantly about his son not walking in his same steps struggling to read.  As a child “John” struggled in school and found himself marked as one of the “bad kids”.  “Graduating” high school, with “some sort of certificate”, he joined the Merchant Marines and then the trucking industry.  At work, when a co-worker pointed out a joke on the Internet, “John” stared at the screen for a while, finally laughing as if he had read it.  He needed to take his son along to Walgreen’s to read the labels of the medicine boxes.  His job as a trucker became even more challenging when the company started to use texting for driving directions. Knowing that “everything revolves around reading”, “John” came to Literacy Delaware for help. He left with increased skills that opened doors to new opportunities including employment, the understanding of his healthcare needs, texting, and a son who was proud and inspired by his dad’s determination and hard work. Confidence, self-respect, engaged community members, involved parents, and responsible workers are all possible because a person has the literacy skills they need.

As Literacy Month is winding down, and Adult Education and Family Literacy Week 2023 fades away for another year let’s not forget the urgency of this issue.  With only 42% of our children reading on grade level by 4th grade, 20% of our adults (ages 16-74) reading at or below the 3rd grade, and another group of 35% of adults reading below 6th grade (6th grade is the minimum level for proficiency in reading), what will you do to help us get to 100% of Delawareans reading proficiently?  It only takes one word at a time to break down those walls!                                                                                     

Cynthia E. Shermeyer

Executive Director, Literacy Delaware

To become a Literacy Delaware volunteer tutor, go to https://literacydelaware.org/tutors

For more information or to sign up to become involved with the Delaware Literacy Alliance go to https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1Y-xhr6ZB7F7Ze-Hn_Dnn0mYEjp31pp5dkTtmjeC1ol8/viewform?edit_requested=true#responses