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Mary Jo Meade limber.pine at earthlink.net
Tue May 1 13:09:10 EDT 2007

Hi all...

I am working on a project that will serve struggling adolescent and
adult readers and English Language Learners. Alternative Lens (working
title) will be a digital library containing engaging, visually lush,
content-driven, nonfiction readings packages, each presented at three
or more reading levels and, likely, in Spanish.

I would greatly value the group's input – questions, comments,
suggestions, Valium!!!

(I will put more details about Alternative Lens in a second email.)


PREMISE: Because the most compelling websites, books and magazines are
written for proficient readers, struggling readers are denied access to
the deepest, most fascinating and thought-provoking stories – precisely
the kind of material that can sustain student motivation to read and
learn despite previous failures.

APPROACH: Through collaboration and special agreements, Alternative
Lens will harvest education/outreach materials from tax-funded and
nonprofit entities worldwide and translate the "best of the best" into
themed readings packages on all subjects. Through journalistic
storytelling, thousands of magazine-style, nonfiction articles will
build engagement in older struggling readers while reinforcing
classroom learning and vocabulary. On-demand vocabulary help will
include not only simple word definitions, but also images, animations
and interactives that help cement comprehension.

The goal is to provide this nonprofit library free of charge to
everyone everywhere.


I have been a journalist for 30 years, working as a reporter,
copyeditor, magazine art director, and newspaper graphics editor/art
director. I have spent the last 10 of those years blending journalism
and education, creating learning materials on history, science and the
environment for children and the general public.

In early 2005, I stumbled upon the story of the Kentucky Pack Horse
Librarians ( www.kdla.ky.gov/resources/kypackhorselib.htm ), women who,
riding horses or mules, traveled up rocky creekbeds and muddy trails in
the mountains of rural Kentucky to deliver reading materials to remote
homes and schools. The creative spark for Alternative Lens came from
that Depression-era W.P.A. project. The Web offers a nearly unlimited
supply of great learning materials, but those materials of greatest
interest to adolescents and adults are generally crafted for proficient
readers who have acquired age-appropriate knowledge bases. Alternative
Lens was conceived to blend the skills of journalists and educators in
order to create a deeply engaging learning environment for the
underserved population of older struggling readers.

In the summer of 2005, I was hired as part of a TQE grant at the
University of Colorado/Colorado Springs to develop a pilot science
reader program for middle school English language learners, and most
recently I worked for the English Language Acquisition Unit at Colorado
Department of Education, where we worked to find funding for
Alternative Lens. There is an Institute of Education Sciences grant
pending, but I am continuing to search for startup funding and a
permanent home for the project. I own Limber Pine Learning, a tiny
one-person business, but I will become a cog in the nonprofit
Alternative Lens project when it births.

Mary Jo Meade
Limber Pine Learning / Alternative Lens
2301 Stepping Stones Way
Colorado Springs, CO 80904
719 / 632-3978
limber.pine at earthlink.net

AltLens target constituencies:
• Older struggling readers, middle school through adult
• Low-income language, racial and ethnic minorities
• English language learners
• Older special ed. students
• Disabled adolescents and adults
• Struggling readers in vo-tech programs
• Students in migrant-, family- and workplace-literacy programs
• Students in post-secondary remedial reading/writing programs
• Incarcerated adolescents and adults

Access points:
Alternative Lens will use the Internet for general distribution, but
all readings packages will be available as downloadable pdf files for
classroom use. Select content also will be delivered via CD-ROM and
newsprint readers for constituents without Internet access. AltLens
will rely on the power of printed material in hands, as well as the

Harvesting existing material for an underserved population:
Most of the resources needed to build the foundation of the Alternative
Lens project already exist, and more harvestable materials are being
created every day. Federal, state, county and municipal taxes pay for
research and discovery, museums and archives, and public
education/outreach materials that serve up text, images, animations,
video, sound, maps, timelines, interactives, step-by-step diagrams, and
an almost boundless supply of primary-source materials, much of it on
the Internet. Partnerships with other developed nations and
education-driven nonprofits worldwide will provide additional
harvestable education/outreach materials.

A partial list of current collaborators:
• National Hispanic Cultural Center, Albuquerque, New Mexico
• Literacy Coaching Clearinghouse, Dr. Nancy Shanklin
• National Park Service (national and regional offices)
• U.S. Geological Survey
• National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration / Boulder Labs
• Denver Art Museum
• Colorado Division of Wildlife
• Denver Public Library, Western History and Genealogy Department
• University of Colorado/Colorado Springs' College of Engineering and
Applied Science

From a letter of support for Alternative Lens:
“Your work will be of great interest and assistance to literacy coaches
and teachers as they work to help students develop reading skills that
will apply across all content areas. Access to content resources that
are written for students’ various reading levels and of high interest
are important to students’ continued literacy development and success.
Your ideas for this intervention are both exciting and excellently

Dr. Nancy Shanklin / Director
Literacy Coaching Clearinghouse – www.literacycoachingonline.org
University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center
School of Education and Human Development
The Literacy Coaching Clearinghouse is joint project of the
International Reading Association – www.reading.org – and the National
Council of the Teachers of English – www.literacycoachingonline.org


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