[ReadWrite 1523] Re: Readwrite Digest-T.Sticht, Vol 17, Issue 7

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fahey16 at comcast.net fahey16 at comcast.net
Wed Feb 9 08:02:07 EST 2011

I read everything published on the list serv by Tom Sticht because I have come to RESPECT his knowledge, experience, and insight. Adult learners and adult literacy organizations have many things in common: establishing achievable goals, using resources wisely, capitalizing on successes, and maintaining the confidence to carry on and, indeed, improve. As a CBO director, I struggle to maintain a balance with these challenges for my organization and with my adult students. At the risk of sounding like a Tom Sticht groupie, thank you,
Charlotte Fahey
Executive Director
Literacy Volunteers of Ocean County [NJ]

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Today's Topics:

   1. [ReadWrite 1522]  Respect in adult literacy education
      (tsticht at znet.com)


Message: 1
Date: Sun, 06 Feb 2011 12:06:07 -0800
From: tsticht at znet.com
Subject: [ReadWrite 1522]  Respect in adult literacy education
To: readwrite at lincs.ed.gov
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Colleagues: The following article that I wrote in 2007 is relevant to the
discussion of respect in adult literacy education programs. Hope it is of
interest. Tom Sticht

January 30, 2007

The Lions of Literacy

Tom Sticht
International Consultant in Adult Education

In January of 2007 I went to Dublin, Ireland to present a speech at a
conference of adult literacy tutors sponsored by the National Adult
Literacy Agency (NALA). The theme of the conference was Sustaining
Motivation for Adult Literacy Learners. As I thought about this theme, and
how I might frame remarks that would fit with it, I glanced at the bulletin
board by my desk. There I noticed the photos of the grand, main building of
the New York Public Library  (NYPL) that I have tacked to the board.

I have long admired the NYPL located on the south-west corner of the
intersection of 42nd street and 5th avenue. I am particularly fond of the
two massive sculptures of lions that guard the main entrance to the
library. During the great depression of the 1930s, New York Mayor Fiorello
LaGuardia dubbed the two sculptures of lions with the names Patience and
Fortitude. Mayor LaGuardia told the citizens of New York that patience and
fortitude were the qualities they would require to survive the economic
depression gripping the nation and New York City.

This lead me to think that these great lions, Patience and Fortitude, also
represent the qualities that adult literacy tutors require to persist in
helping adult literacy learners maintain their motivation in what can often
be a long and difficult struggle for literacy. In many ways, the adult
literacy tutors are the Lions of Literacy. They help guide adult learners
into the great library of books of the world which provide access to the
collected knowledge of the ages.

As I studied the photo of Patience and Fortitude, I came to the thought
that there was something that bonded these two qualities and sustained them.
Then I thought of Aretha Franklin and her musical hit song, RESPECT. It
occurred to me that respect is what builds the bond between tutors and
learners, a bond maintained by patience and fortitude on the part of both
tutors and learners.

For my presentation in Dublin, I built on these thoughts and developed the
idea that the seven letters of the word R.E.S.P.E.C.T. could serve as a
mnemonic for seven factors that taken together can help sustain motivation
for the work of teaching and learning literacy.


R : Relevance to the learner's lives

E : Engagement with the learning experience

S : Social capital development for learners

P : Participation by learners in choosing goals, curriculum materials &

E : Educational opportunities across the life span & across multiple life

C: Community support for adult literacy education

T: Teachers/tutors who care about adults, literacy, & learning

>Following a brief overview of these seven factors, I focused on R, for

>Relevance. I recounted the stories of four great adult literacy educators

>who focused on the relevance to the lives of their students of the

>materials they were using to teach adults to read.

First, the story of Harriet Jacobs, the former slave girl of the mid-1800s
who taught an old black man to read using the Bible, which was what he
wanted to learn to read. Next, an account of the work of Cora Wilson
Stewart in 1911 to start the Moonlight Schools of Kentucky and the
materials she wrote in books called the Country Life Readers. These books
taught reading in the context of farming, home making, health for the
family, community development and other topics of relevance to the lives of
the country folks who came to class on moon lit nights.

Then the work of Paul Witty during World War II was used to illustrate once
again the professional wisdom of early pioneers in adult literacy education
and their focus upon making their materials relevant to the lives of their
learners. Witty invented the fictional Private Pete and his buddy Daffy,
who were themselves learning to read and write in the Army, so that
soldiers could identify with the stories about the Army and the military
context through their relationship to the fictional soldiers they read

Finally, the Queen Mother of the civil rights movement in the United States
during mid-20th century was identified as Septima Poinsette Clark. She
started Citizenship Schools to teach African-Americans to read and write so
they could vote. This was the relevant goal for these American citizens who
were being denied voting rights and hence social justice because of
illiteracy. Septima Clark new the importance of developing literacy and
power by making the materials of education relevant to the lives of her

To sustain the motivation of adult students in the often arduous task of
learning to read and write adult literacy tutors need both patience and
fortitude. But above all, they need to have RESPECT for their students. And
the primary letter of that word, R, stands for Relevance. Over a century of
professional wisdom by those on whose shoulders we stand confirms the
importance of relevance in adult literacy education.

Today's adult literacy teachers and tutors carry on the important work of
respecting adult students and providing relevant literacy education
sustained by both patience and fortitude. They are the Lions of Literacy in
the 21st century.

Email: tsticht at aznet.net


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