Category Archives: Literacy

Congress Declares National Adult Education and Family Literacy Week

Project Learn invites you to join us in celebrating National Adult Education and Family Literacy Week (NAEFLW), October 18 – 24, 2009.  This Congressional declaration is the culmination of literacy advocacy and outreach resulting in 26 co-signers in the House. Congresswoman Betty Sutton and Congressman Tim Ryan also voted in favor of the bill.


This acknowledgement sheds light into the problem that is our nation is facing. The National Assessment of Adult Literacy reports that 90 million adults lack the literacy, numeracy or English language skills to succeed at home, in the workplace and in society.
Locally, the need for Project Learn’s programs and services are at an all time high. As of October 15, all ABE (literacy and GED) appointments for November are filled. Two hundred students made appointments for orientation in just seven hours! Unfortunately, we now have to tell all perspective students to wait until November 16 to make an appointment for December.

Read more.

Time to Break Cycle of No Skills, No Jobs

The Detroit Free Press reported that low level of literacy adds fuel to employment crisis. Very true.

In Summit County, Ohio, there are 45,000 adults who don’t read well enough to earn a living wage. There is also 52,000 adults over the age of 25 who lack a high school diploma. This is a problem for people who need to be able to read and possess a high school diploma to work a job that pays well enough to support their families.

Although Project Learn serves adults in Summit and Portage county who are in need of literacy skills, we recognize that low literacy is a national problem. 

Detroit (Michigan) has about 365,000 residents age 16 and older who read below sixth-grade level. That’s more than a third of a city that is losing residents every year.

Read more about Detroit’s problem here.

Exemplary Rating, Exceptional Program

Project Learn of Summit County was recently rated an “exemplary” program by the Ohio Board of Regents. Project Learn students and staff talk about what the rating says about the agency’s culture, program and teachers.

Meet the Board

Project Learn has decided to add a new feature to this blog.  “Meet the Board” will be a weekly post that will feature a new Project Learn board member who will share why they decided to get involved with Project Learn and their thoughts on literacy and personal experiences with education.

1. What is your name, title and employer?
Denise Stuart, associate professor at the University of AkronCollege of Education

2. Do you hold a specific seat on the Board?
I serve as chair of the program committee. This allows me stay in touch with the many programs Project Learn offers and to involve students from the University of Akron with program activities.

3. Why did you choose to become involved with Project Learn?
I have been involved with adult literacy for many years, as a volunteer initially, then as a family literacy coordinator in another county, as a member of a reading group for adult readers and now with Project Learn. I was aware of the good work Project Learn was doing in the Akron/Summit County community and so when I began to teach at the University of Akron I wanted to get involved locally. I’m glad I did.

4. In your opinion, what is the value of education?
Education creates opportunity and can open doors to options. Options are part of freedom in life. South African leader Nelson Mandela once said: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” It can change the world of the individual and of the community. A woman who works for children’s rights, Marion Wright Edelman says that “Education is for improving the lives of others and for leaving your community and world better than you found it.” It is all about hope and possibility.

5. In Summit County, more than 62,000 people over the age of 18 lack a high school diploma. How do you interpret this?
This reflects the trend nationally and continues to need attention. The kinds of jobs available has changed as plants and factories have closed or downsized. Additional skills and abilities are now needed. Our schools are working through reform efforts that make learning more meaningful and relevant, that consider new structures for high school, and ways we can assess learning beyond one test. A program with The University of Akron, Early College High School, is one new approach to high school that helps prepare students for careers as well as college.

6. What is your favorite book? Why?
This is such a hard question… There are some I keep coming back to and read again and again like One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, a delightful and magical story of generations of a family in a village over 100 years and all that can happen in life. I enjoy escaping in mysteries like Walter Moseley’s series of Easy Rawlins crime and PI adventures set in L.A. over the decades. I like to get to know characters in a story. As a child I enjoyed Pippi Longstocking’s zany adventures and Nancy Drew’s clever solving of mysteries. I teach children’s literature so I very much enjoy exploring books I can recommend to teachers and children, readers of all ages. And lately I’ve been thinking about my grandmother who grew up in Finland. I never heard her story about those times. So I have been reading information about what Finland is like, imagining her life. I hope someday I will travel there to learn more.

7. Finish this sentence: Reading allows me ….
to enjoy who we are and can be, to go to new places, to learn new things and new words. Mary McLeod Bethune said that “The whole world opened to me when I learned to read.” I agree.

8. Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I feel fortunate to be part of Project Learn and so appreciate the tremendous work of the teachers, staff and students. Every time I go to a Project Learn graduation I am moved by the stories of students and so proud of the work they have done. B.B. King, the blues guitarist, reminds us that “The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you.” They will have that degree and the experience of learning forever.

Swine Flu and the Repercussions of Health Literacy

A few years ago, we were shocked by the Avian Influenza, a virus that occurs naturally in birds. The virus started in Asia and people across the world were scared to eat poultry because of the potentially fatal illness.


Enter 2009 and the swine flu. According to the Center of Disease Control, the swine flu is a respiratory disease of pigs that is contagious and spreads from human to human.


So far, the flu has claimed more than 150 lives in Mexico and one in Texas.


For those who may not be able to speak for themselves or use advanced vocabulary, verbalize questions in a medical setting, or understand basic instructions without an interpreter, comprehending information related to personal or public health may be difficult.


In some classes, Project Learn teachers felt it was appropriate to explain the virus and potential effect it may have on the country.


Although many students heard about the flu virus on television, newspapers or in general conversation, some could not understand what was being discussed. They didn’t know what words like “epidemic” and “pandemic” meant.


This is a serious problem, especially when the general public is at risk.


Imagine what the consequences are for people who don’t know the importance of washing their hands after they sneeze or don’t take their medication correctly. Think about how many people could be less sick, or even cured, if they did.


Going beyond swine flu, this has a direct relationship with health literacy.


Health literacy refers to the ability to read and have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions.


One in five adults read at or below the 5th grade reading level, but most health materials are written at the 10th grade level or above. Newspapers aren’t always easy to understand either, even though some, like USA Today, is written at a 4th grade level.


Here are a few impediments that may make it difficult for non-English speakers or adults with poor literacy skills in developing health literacy:

  • Lack of access to basic health care due to language barriers or lack of insurance.

  • Lack of language skills. Learners may be unable to speak for themselves, use sophisticated vocabulary, formulate appropriate questions in a medical setting, or comprehend basic instructions without an interpreter.

  • Lack of awareness of U.S. healthcare culture, including what is expected of the patient and what the patient can expect of care providers (Courtesy of the Center of English Language Acquisition).

It is important that doctors, nurses, teachers and other individuals pay attention to the signs that indicate a person has low health literacy skills. By helping them understand what is needed to stay healthy, you can prevent them from engaging in activities that could harm themselves or others. (See what we’re doing.)


What are you doing to communicate swine flu?


The Struggling Economy and Its Effect on Education

It’s no secret that the economy is in trouble. The number of job openings is down 31 percent from a year ago. Since December 2007, there have been more than 2.7 million layoffs. Some economists say these are the worst statistics they’ve seen in 25 years.


To make matters worse, in Summit County (Ohio), more than 52,000 adults over the age of 25 lack a high school diploma. A sad, yet true statistic.


In Maryland, it’s estimated that about 30 percent of Baltimore city residents don’t read at a sufficient level or don’t have a high school diploma.


In addition to the Summit County residents without a high school diploma, Project Learn’s enrollment has increased because students realize they need better skills to compete and succeed in the workplace.


More companies are requiring that applicants possess college degrees for employment. Laid off workers are going back to school to earn their GED diplomas, in hope that it will lead to a job. Our students understand the dilemma that is before them. The first step to overcoming this problem is to get their GED diplomas. The next step is to acquire additional career training and higher education. proud-graduate3


Project Learn had 200 GED graduates last year. This year we are expecting close to 300 graduates. But we’re not the only program to see a spike in our graduation statistics.


Middletown City Schools’ Adult Education program saw 505 people earn their GED last year. With three months still left in this academic year, about 400 people have earned their GED so far.


The South Baltimore Learning Center (SBLC) has seen a jump in general interest and enrollment in both its GED and External Diploma classes. SBLC has even increased its classes and offerings by about 20 percent to accommodate interested students.


Pretty amazing, huh?


But what do you to when the number of students is increasing, but the amount of money you have is decreasing? And despite the recent stimulus bill, it’s likely that it won’t help adult students tooking to get their GED diplomas.


Tough call.


Although it will get harder to serve students with a limited budget, it will be even harder to turn them away.


Find out how you can help by visiting or calling 330-434-9461. 


Tutor Training!

Since I didn’t have any classes this week, I got put in charge of facilitating the tutor training on Tuesday and Thursday night.  If you don’t know, our training is 12 hours long.  Volunteers come to two training sessions and then observe one classroom before they’re matched with a student.  So…basically, they got to listen to me drone on for hour upon hour. 

While I’ve facilitated tutor training a couple of times before, I’ve forgotten how much material we have to cover.  The first day’s the worst (and by worst I hope you or the tutors I just got done training don’t equate that with boring–man, I try to be entertaining).  It’s not that we’re merely tossing useless information at them.  The first day introduces them to what we do as a program and some characteristics of the students that they’ll end up working with.  There’s just so much information to cover, and there’s only so interactive you can make it be.

Now, the second day was a little more interactive and, I hope, more engaging.  I reviewed the concepts of phonics with them (to be honest, not my strongest area), but the parts that I found were more successful were the reading strategies that I modelled for them.  Don’t worry.  I’m not going to bore you with the particulars.  If you want to hear about the strategies, I’ll tell you about them another time.  But of all the topics I covered, I felt that they were the most successful.

Now, of course, you could say that it’s because it’s what I felt most comfortable.  That’s true, but I think that it was more than that.  The reason that I think it was the most successful was the fact the it was applicable.  The strategies gave them activities they could employ immediately when they got their student.  Of course, activities have always been part of the tutor training manual.  I guess I now know that I’ll want to make sure to include more applicable modelling the next time I do it.  Live and let learn.


Why is Coming to a GED Class is Important?


Coming to a GED class is important and helpful in so many ways, but I will be able to discuss a few major ones.

GED class is important because it gives you the ability to be capable and ready to pass the GED test.  It leads you through a process to indicate whether you are prepared for the GED.

The second important reason is it helps you learn more about what to expect for the GED and how to solve it and mostly, it makes you learn about things you forgot about when you were in school.

Lastly, some people, during their academic years in school had serious problems in mathematics and English.  So, they had to attend GED class to build skills in English and mathematics.  GED class gives some people the ability and opportunity to be more effective in English and mathematics. 

GED class is so much important to those who were unable to get their GED when they were in high school.



Abraham is a current Project Learn student in our GEN Y Pre-GED class.  He is from Liberia and has just advanced three grade levels in reading and two grade levels in math and will be advancing into our GED class this summer.

FYI:  A few corrections have been made to the essay prior to its publication.

Congresswoman Betty Sutton Reminds Us Why It’s Important to Vote

With the primary elections almost upon us and the presidential elections not too far off, everyone needs a reminder of why voting is important and about how every election can impact our daily lives.  Recently, Project Learn provided our students–GED, Literacy, and ESOL–with the opportunity to meet with and ask quesitons to one of the members of congress that represents them, Congresswoman Betty Sutton. 

During this discussion, Congresswoman Sutton explained the importance of and encouraged the classroom full of students to vote in the presidential primary in March and election this fall.  Project Learn staff and students are extremely grateful for the time that Congresswoman Sutton took out of her busy schedule to come to speak with us and her continued support of our program. 

Don’t forget to vote this upcoming Tuesday!