Thursday, January 17, 2013

A Note on Grammar: A Personal Reflection

I learned to write first—still learning of course—and ultimately learned grammar mostly intuitively which I grappled with as part of the process of striving to improve my writing. I concentrated most on finding an idea that evoked some stimulus in my imagination and wrote from the unleashed impulses.  Grammar came slowly; a skill I still work at it even after publishing a fairly significant body of professional work in which professional editors helped a great deal particularly at the direct copy editing level. Though I was unaware of formal work on writing theory or grammar pedagogy while studying at the PhD level in U.S. History, I implicitly embraced the view of grammar instruction as  a patch-up process as detailed by Peter Elbow in his 15th chapter of Writing with Power.

 Slowly, things changed, but not in graduate school in that the history professors were not sticklers for grammatical perfection, though they did not appreciate error strewn texts.  Rather, their primary concern focused on cogent written argumentation, which included a strong accent on logic, effective use of evidence, and overall persuasiveness. Only in my professional life after graduate school did I become more deliberately focused on grammatical accuracy, seldom as a first-order concern, but more as a resource in reinforcing clarity, particularly in the realm of syntax at the sentence level.  My emphasis on sentence clarity, served, in turn, a broader objective in contributing to coherent paragraph writing as part of a broader objective yet of constructing a persuasive extended written argument.  Thus, I was less motivated by the quest for grammatical accuracy, than the search for optimal clarity in expressing complex ideas in a manner that could be clearly grasped by some defined reading audience.

Some years back, I took a major step in my writing evolution in committing myself not to write sentences of more than 60 words.  That was something I had been guilty of in the seeming convoluted need to string idea after idea in what I took as a single thought pattern that included many clauses and (often misplaced) commas.  This self-imposed editorial standard helped a great deal at a certain phase in my writing history in the effort to link an emerging public voice to some definite set of identified readers in the various writing contexts in which I was engaged. My writing contexts included published texts in the field of adult literacy studies, online written classroom lectures, extended listserv discussion posts, and various texts at work, including emails, memos, training materials, and planning documents.  Grammar was seldom at the forefront, but such matters as word selection, sentence clarity, paragraph cogency, and overall textual persuasiveness were very much at the forefront of my concerns.  As a budding author, I relied heavily on the use of active verb tense, precise word selection, and effective paragraph transitions.

Thus, I was not thinking of formal grammar at the time, but clarity, with my abiding grammatical instinct being, to rely on what sounds right to the ear.   It was necessity—that mother of invention—which drove me toward more concentrated mastery of formal grammatical basics (a) when called upon to teach transition to college courses in English, (b) when studying for formal English tests needed for professional certification, and (c) when helping adult students master the language portion of the TABE test. It was only with these cumulative responsibilities that I began to internalize more formal grammatical knowledge.  

 Still, my knowledge of formal grammar remains far from proficient, though I draw upon an array of compensating strategies. At one level, I’m quite sympathetic with Elbow’s claim that “for most [people, nothing helps their writing so much as learning to ignore grammar as they write” (p. 169).  Yet, I wonder, given the excellent editing function of the computer, whether such work on grammar and related structural matters should always be put off till later.  In my own effort I like to get some basic text down in a manner that resembles free writing.  Then I do a good deal of tinkering in the areas of word choice, sentence construction, and fine-tune paragraph reshaping often before moving on toward what might be considered initial draft completion. 

Nonetheless, I take Elbow’s approach that such editing may not always be constructive in that it may bog me down into the intricacies of micro-expression and set up a psychology of perfectionist striving that could impede the free flowing dynamic of continuous writing and discovering some of the more innovative ideas that might emerge in the spontaneous creation of constructing a written text. Perhaps that is so, but I do like to tinker, whether that has to do with grammar, syntax, or broader paragraph construction. 

 At least part of me seeks a more rigorous approach than that which may come across in an initial reading of Writing with Power even while acknowledging that in its totality, the book brims with critical insight on the dynamics of mastering a broad range of powerful writing techniques in support of personal voice and authorial power.  That is, I do not categorically  subscribe to Elbow’s assertion that “Learning grammar [or more broadly, language structure necessarily]… takes crucial energy away from working on your writing,” nor the assumption that “for most people, nothing helps their writing so much as learning to ignore grammar while writing” (169).  At the same time I take his point that we can get too easily caught up in matters of structure and technical form and lose the point of what it is we are seeking to communicate.

 Still, I have no desire to make an absolute of “free writing” even as Elbow’s urging may serve as a goad to take a more experimental attitude and more risks into my written constructions even as I appreciate there is much value in Elbow’s process approach to writing pedagogy.  In this I would include his approach to grammar, which I am seeking to define in a broader, metaphorical way in discerning the role of language structure in contributing to the effectiveness of a coherent written argument.  The thought that comes to mind in reading Elbow is that of taking in his ideas through an attitude of critical—and imaginative—appropriation.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Further Probing into the Intricaies of Learning Difficulties

Original NLA Nov. 15, 1997 

I would like to commend Glenn Young for his very thorough response to the various issues I've raised about LD as well as for his analysis of related policy issues.  I won't comment on Glenn's statement in a systematic fashion, because I don't feel that would be useful and wasn't what David had asked of us.  Instead, I will examine some of the relationships among literacy, learning disabilities, and public policy as I understand them.  I am neither an LD nor policy analyst specialist, so I can only speak of these issues, hopefully, as a somewhat enlightened lay observer. 

I do have some background out of which I base my observations.  I managed a literacy program in Hartford, CT for a number of years and had direct contact with well over 1000 adult literacy learners.  Over the years, my colleagues and I at Literacy Volunteers of Greater Hartford developed an extensive small group tutoring program and a collaborative learning environment that spawned student writing anthologies and texts of oral history narratives of adult new readers.  This student-generated literature speaks of a rich complexity of the lives of adult literacy learners in their grasp and analysis of their own past, in their understanding of the range of issues that they currently face, in their discussion of issues of race, class, education, family, work, and in the value, almost to a person, they attribute to adult literacy education. 

This field work has been informed by an underlying belief that all people of reasonable mental capacity are intelligent, and likewise, that all people have profound gaps in their learning and capacity to process information.  This belief is grounded in deep personal experience wherein I have felt much pain in not being able to learn (sometimes) in the manner of many others and have had to find my own way within the context of my own solitude and also with the support of some real significant others.  Does that make me learning disabled?  Sometimes it does, at other times it doesn't.  It depends on the context.  

I have also been deeply influenced by the progressive literature on literacy, particularly the work of Hanna Fingeret, Susan Lytle, Allan Quigley, Denny Taylor and C. Dorsey-Gaines, Elsa Auerbach, and Brian Street, although I am perhaps a bit more conservative in the importance I place on "scaffolding" or the potential bridge building function of the instructor in assisting students to develop new knowledge while building on the knowledge base and experience they already possess.  What these authors point to, and I concur, is the empowerment and agenic ingenuity people do exhibit by drawing on their own intelligence and community and neighborhood resources which may be more viable and nurturing than those of us who live in suburbs might imagine.  That may be the case even though they live in areas that are economically impoverished. 

I, in no way, want to deny the crushing impact of poverty in stifling the potential of many people, nor the potential role of literacy, and an LD diagnosis among those to whom it might apply, as one intervening variable among many in helping people to enhance their lives.  I do want to stress a more wholistic understanding of people's lives as discussed in the ethnographic literature, and the complex ways they (we) make their (our) way in the world.  On such a reading, constructs like LD are viewed more on a continuum that at times and situations have more relevance even for those deeply afflicted than at other times.  I am arguing, then, for a more developmental and contextual understanding of LD in its relationship to literacy and in the broader life challenges people face for whom LD seems clearly an issue.  But I take a more skeptical (rather than atheistic), cautious, probing stance in generalizing to large sectors of the population who may exhibit various LD-like symptoms, but also exhibit much empowering behavior  within the context of their own developmental trajectories. 

I would assume there is a physiological component to all of our mental processing and gaps, but if concepts like LD are culturally based, then logically, so are neurological disorders.  What may be innate is the brute experience of felt inadequacy in facing situations where one is at loss (this is pure speculation, but grounded in a certain logic by which I make my lay observations).  What seems psycho cultural is (a) the knowledge that is viewed as important by individuals within the contexts of their social environments, and (b) the various coping strategies required to move into more productive space (I think Glenn and I agree on this).  Some will have more difficulty than others, and I fully support the claim that for some, the difficulties will be harder, in part, for the range of reasons identified by the LD community. 

Getting (slowly) to David's [Rosen’s] question on what are the policy implications of a psycho-cultural interpretation of LD (and here, I'm really treading on water), is the need for practitioners and scholars to persuade policy makers to support more developmental and empowering visions of adult literacy education which also acknowledge the difficulties many people face in learning.  In my experience, it takes a long time, particularly for those adults reading at lower levels to attain anything resembling fluent, sustainable, independent literacy skills, although the ethnographic literature points to the use of enhanced literacy practices in highly specific contexts whether at work, home, or in the community that is gained in a shorter period of time.  That is development, but some people, including those with LD, may have more difficulty than others in achieving a desired or acceptable (as they and perhaps significant others in their lives define it), levels of growth in their capacity to mediate that part of the social environment that is critical to their lives.  I would like to see policy initiatives such as those that might be based on the Equipped for the Future project (for example) that might help people progressively master the challenges of the critical social roles that shape their lives, which should include support and accommodation needs for the type of learning difficulties (including disabilities) people may face.
For the short term, given the current law on learning disabilities (and I clearly bow to Glenn's expertise on this), greater emphasis might be placed on more developmental and contextual interpretations of learning disabilities rather than a proscriptive legislation that requires, say, a phonics first approach.  For the longer haul, a more complex public discourse needs to emerge on the nature of adult literacy and the relationship learning disabilities, difficulties, differences, styles, multiple intelligences and much else, to it.  Such a discourse would require literacy and ABE instructors, program practitioners, administrators, scholars, the press, and political servants from a broad spectrum to take a good, hard look at this issue.  I can't but help to express some skepticism about the likelihood of this happening, but the forum provided by the NLA is an important critical step in galvanizing a public discussion.  Through such discourse, a more enlightened policy on literacy and LD might emerge.  I am fully aware that many people are already fighting for this cause.

 Thank you for the floor,

 George Demetrion

In Dialogue with Glenn Young (Nov 13, 1997)

Original NLA List Nov. 13, 1997 

Among much else, Glenn Young states the following: 

" research is showing that a large percent of our population in adult literacy programs do have central nervous system disorders that do affect their ability to learn to read" 

I'm curious about that from a couple of perspectives: 

1.      If (and I'm assuming, here) the large majority of that population has not been formally diagnosed, then on what basis can we make such a claim? 

2.      If LD is a form of neurological malfunctioning, then why would it be more unevenly distributed among particular classes of persons than more evenly distributed across the general population? 

Also, as Glenn seems to imply: 

"Since the difference between those with LD and those who are not reading due to lack of access, previous training or whatever, is that those with LD are not reading or reading well, due to a disability issue - as the  definition states - a presumed disorder of the central nervous system" 

Is there a great divide between those with and without LD or are learning disabilities part of a broader continuum as a subset of learning differences, which, in turn, might be viewed as a subset of multiple intelligences linked ultimately to various societal and cultural interpretations and forms of knowledge. 

As a non-specialist, let me step outside this Socratic question posing and venture forth into a speculation. 

My personal theory: 

There is a complex relationship between physiology, psychology, and the social construction of knowledge.  In a society where demands for literacy are pervasive, at least some of those who lack extensive reading and writing skills may experience that lack as a personal inadequacy that may induce shame, low self-regard and other negative emotions.  Such emotions have a physiological impact which not only seem to, but actually create "central nervous system disorders."  Those disorders will be intensified or abated depending on the various coping or supportive strategies people are able to enact.  Thus, they are not innate, but socially constructed and deconstructed as people negotiate the terrain between their own psychology and the culture.  To the extent that we are able to create empowering learning environments that draw on the creative potential of learners we will be better able to support people to maximize their own developmental capacities in part  through literacy, however minimal gains may seem on any 'objective" standardized tests.  I, then, agree with much of what Glenn says in the following: 

The key to addressing the needs of adult learners with learning disabilities is to look at it from a disability view and not a teaching view - therefore, teaching becomes one of many means that are brought to the table to address the needs, and depending on the capacity of the individual, teaching to read becomes either a major, moderate or limited part of the approach to help the person become functional.  The use of other tools, such as "accommodations" - meaning alternative methods of gaining and using information - books on tape, oral instruction, use of reading machines, etc. become the lead means of gaining inform, rather than relying on reading only. " 

What I like especially is Glenn's interpretation of literacy as one intervening variable among others in helping people to expand their life capacities.  Where I might differ is that I don't see this applying simply to LD students, but as a more generalized objective of adult literacy education.  Thus, perhaps in some ways, opposites do meet; Glenn, seemingly as interpreting "learning disabilities" as an innate physiological malfunction, whereas I look at knowledge and  felt "inadequacy" more as a psycho-cultural phenomenon and by doing so achieve a certain personal agency over such a labeling that in some compelling ways characterizes my own struggle and sometimes failure  to learn.  

Perhaps Glenn identifies more freedom through the diagnosis.  If so, I can respect that, but let's keep an open mind.


George Demetrion

Friday, November 23, 2012

Critical Issues on the Nature and Dfinition of LD

NLA Listserv October 25, 1997

The discussion on the relationship between phonemic awareness and LD is highly important and one that deserves considerable focus in the general literature and perhaps on the NIFL-LD listserv. (I have copied this message to that listserv).  In the following comments I will by-pass that discussion here, acknowledging that it needs to take place elsewhere.  Instead, I will concentrate on some broader concerns that I believe need to be factored into any discussion of LD from theoretical, practical, and/or policy perspectives.
The 1993 NCAL report, "Should Reading-Disabled Adults Be Distinguished From Other Adults in Seeking Literacy Instruction," by Fowler and Scarborough states that:
"This study suggests that in practice, if not necessarily in theory, there are fewer differences than traditionally has been assumed between adults with reading disabilities and adults with reading problems that ae thought to stem from lack of educational opportunity or from a gnerally weak aptitude for learning.  Consequently, the argument can be ade that much of what has been learned from research on reading is abilities may be pertinent to the identification and development of adult learners generally (p. ii)
The issue is not whether most adults who participate in literacy programs have a wide range of difficulties with reading and writing, but whether the concept of learning disabilities is the master cause of the 40%-80% among those for whom it is claimed that it is
The issue (in my mind) is not even whether methodologies and strategies utilized for LD students may be applicable to others.  In one of its Linkages newsletters(not in my current possession), the NAALDC has a wonderful checklist of effective learning strategies to utilize with LD students that would be applicable to most any adult literacy learner (the argument of Fowler and Scarborough). 
The issue is whether "learning disabilities" is an adequate and accurate characterization of the learning problems of a large segment of adult literacy students, particularly when any strict definition of LD rests on a neurological impairment of informational processing capabilities.  Even symptoms do not a learning disabilities make, but may point to a broad range of factors (genetic, psychological, socio-cultural, historical) that need to be examined before we can make well warranted judgments
about causes of "illiteracy" among adults.
In a recent article, "Adult Literacy, Learning Disabilities, and Social Context:  Conceptual  Foundations for a Learner-Centered Approach (Pelavin Associates, Inc., 1994), Osher and Webb argue, among much else that "Learning disabilities are a socially created category of rather recent
origin" (p. 4) "that filled a void in American education" (p. 5).  They maintain that it is a construct "which focuses attention on some factorsand excludes others" (p. 9).  What is excluded, they say, is:
  •  an examination of the social context of adult literacy education
  • references to learning differences or cognitive styles
The dominant view of LD:
"...focuses on factors that are intrinsic to the individual and excludes other disabilities that may co-occur or even produce the difficulties.  The definition rules out such extrinsic factors as cultural differences  and poor teaching" (p. 10), to say nothing of an irrelevant curriculum or nadequate resources.
The authors make the further point, quoting Gerald Coles (author of The Larning Mystique:  A Critical Look at Learning Disabilities.  Pantheon Boks, 1987) that:
"(L)Learning difficulties and any neurological dysfunctions associated wth them, develop not from within the individual but from the individual's interaction with social relationships.  Brain functioning is both a product of and a contributor to the individual's interactions, it is not a predetermined  condition" (Coles, 1987, p. xvii, cited in Osher and Webb, pp. 10-11).
The umbrella concept Osher and Webb favor is "learning differences" in which "learning difficulties" is a subset and "learning disabilities" is an even smaller subset.
This brings us to the important work of Howard Gardner on multiple intelligences, pointing to the diversity of ways that people learn.  Gardner states that:
"...a human intellectual competence must entail a set of skills of problem solving--enabling the individual to resolve genuine problems or difficulties that he or she encounters, and when appropriate, to create an effective product--and must also entail the potential for finding or creating problems--thereby laying the groundwork for the acquisition of new knowledge" (Frames of Mind, 1983, pp. 60-61).
In a word, the intelligences are culturally produced rather than a product of individual minds and what is viewed as a disability is also a cultural artifact.
These are the questions I have:
  1.  How would proponents define learning disabilities?
  2.  Does that definition apply to a large or a relatively small portion of the adult literacy learner population?
  3.  Is learning disabilities the major cause of why significant numbers of adults who have attended school have attained limited reading and writing capabilities?
  4.  How would proponents place in relationship, learning disabilities, learning difficulties, learning differences, and multiple intelligences?
  5. Is there a continuum or a great divide between learning disabilities and other explanations for adult literacy among adults who have attended school?
  6.  Is there a continuum or a great divide between in instructional approaches for those with learning disabilities and other adult literacy learners?
  7. From a policy perspective can the field advocate away from deficiency toward more  developmental models that build on strengths and potential contributions to the culture that adults might make, in part, through enhanced literacy?

I do not deny that learning disabilities is not a valuable concept from theoretical, practitioner, and policy perspectives.  I am concerned that the term is a bit loosely used and that considerable clarification is needed on the range of its explanatory power even when stricter definitions pertain.
George Demetrion

From the NLA Archives--Learning Disabilities

I will be posting edited extracts and complete texts from the many listserv posts I wrote on the various adult literacy listservs from 1997-2006 or so.  This initial post is fom the original NLA list dated October 16, 1997  GD

Lloyd David writes in passing that " Most people if they have been to
school in this country and have not completed high school have a learning
disability. "

I'd like to hear more about that.

My understanding of learning disabilities in the strict clinical sense is
that there is some neurological impairment in processing or receiving
information that helps to explain the enigmatic gap "between ability and
performance" in the "absence of other primary handicapping conditions."
(Jovita M. Ross-Gordon (1989)  Adults With Learning Disabilities:  An
Overview for the Adult Educator. (ERIC, p. 3).

As I  undersdand it it is questionable to label large segments of the
population as "learning disabled" without a clinical diagnosis.

To push the issue a bit more, I would contend that  "learning
disabilities" like any other concept is more of an intellectual construct
that may have a certain heuristic value in opening new ways of looking at
experience that otherwise would be closed rather than reflecting anything
existing in "objective reality."

The concept of learning disabilities may contain a certain value if
rigorously examined, but broad categorizations about which groups do and
don't have  learning disabilities is a concern.

To be fair to Lloyd David, learning disabilities was not the main thrust
of his comments.  Still, the above passage does concern me.

George Demetrion

Friday, September 9, 2011

Drucker on Leadership: Anticipating Crisis

Drucker’s second chapter on Managing the Non-Profit Organization is a wide ranging discussion on leadership. Much of what he says may seem like common sense, other points may not be so evident. The purpose here is to outline his key argument and to draw on it as a take-off point for additional commentary.

His first essential characteristic of effective leadership that Drucker highlights, the one that I will highlight here, is that of anticipating crisis in a timely manner, which, in turn, calls for the importance of “innovation,” or “constant renewal” at various smaller or larger scale. The emerging crisis could call for a changing focus on the level of organizational structure in order to better face new market or funding sources, or on the nature of the service in responding to unanticipated need, perhaps stimulated by changing demographic factors or new client demands. An example of the former would be some repositioning of staff responsibilities to better align with targeted service delivery.

As an example, I was initially hired by Literacy Volunteers of Greater Hartford as Manager of Community-Based Programming. My colleague served as the manager of the main program. We were both paid about the same and held equivalent rank, yet she supervised over 200 students while I worked with under75 students. Historically, providing services to a series of satellite centers had built in cost efficiencies when compared providing services in the main program with greater administrative support systems built in. After making a tough organizational decision to provide more resources into the main program, my boss divided up the responsibilities in which my colleague would oversee the ESL program while I managed the Basic Literacy program. The result was each of us were working more out of our core strengths and more closely working with an equal number of students and volunteer tutors That is an example of innovative change at the staff level which enhanced organizational capacity to more effectively realize agency goals.

The decision by my boss to drop the one-on-one tutoring program and to support students exclusively through the small group tutoring format is an example of a change at the level of service provision. The shift had been in the work for some years in the creation of our tutoring center in which we added small group tutoring as a vibrant complement to the traditional LVA individualized, “each one teach one” program orientation. The small group tutoring program provides a creative synthesis of the individualized student-tutor match and the collaborative dynamic of the ABE classroom. It also serves as a powerful source of community building in microcosm to parallel the program wide community building we were developing at our center. We were also facing certain demographic and cultural realities which pushed us toward an intentional embrace of the small group program in terms of increasing numbers of students desiring services and a diminishing pool of volunteer tutors to provide the instruction.

On a broader level, the shift to an all small group instruction program paralleled the broader agency-based transition of taking a suburban program model and transforming it into an urban program design. The one-on-one tutoring model is simply not an effective mode of program delivery when working with hundreds of students with a limited teaching pool with the programmatic desire as well to provide some decent managerial on-site supervision to assure that optimal learning is taking place.

The related shift was the declension in volunteerism in which it became increasingly difficult to say nothing of cost inefficient to training hundreds of volunteer for individualized student matches. The problem was compounded as we drew on a younger, upwardly mobile aspiring set of volunteers who would stay with the program for a year or two, but more likely to have multi-year careers as volunteer tutoring. The upside in drawing on this group is that as a whole, they were more receptive in serving as a small group tutor. The shift to an exclusive, site-based small group tutoring program was largely a response to these issues, which became feasible once we assessed that the model was intrinsically viable in meeting student learning needs.

It required the abandonment of the traditional model, which has been a stumbling block to many volunteer-based urban adult literacy programs which would be well served by making a similar move. Making these calls and carrying out the corresponding implementation processes required high level decision-making in the light of anticipated crises and abandonment of traditional programming, however valid they served the needs of the past. Effective decision-making is at the center of Drucker’s approach to managing for results that truly matter.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

On Literacy Day a Success Story

The following article appeared in the San Diego Union Tribune on September 8, 2011.


Literacy is referred to as “the people’s campaign,” partly because of the volunteerism in this effort. But the real “people” here are the students who emerge from darkness with a burning torch and from silence with voices that tell of their journeys to literacy.

Meet 23 year-old Dominique Calhoun.
Growing up in Reno, Dominique thought he would become a truck driver, like his father. But in school, something was making him see letters “backwards.” He knew by age 6 that he was not getting it. “All the other kids knew how to read and I didn’t. I knew right away. They called me ‘dumb’ and ‘stupid,’ and I was in fights all the time.”

He remembers a teacher from second grade who was helping him learn but who went away. He says, “At that time, I knew I was learning.” Years later, he was told by his ninth-grade teacher that, at best, he would end up being a thug. “I didn’t understand it. There was nothing wrong with me. I knew I could be somebody.”
Today, Dominique, a student of literacy programs associated with the San Diego Council on Literacy, is a graduate of the Adult Learner Leadership Institute, a leadership development program for advanced literacy students.

When asked if he thought this day would ever come, he said, “No. I thought I’d be dead or in prison. Four years ago, I couldn’t read at all.”

“I was homeless for two months, and that’s a scary thing,” Dominique said. “I left Reno and went to live with my sister in San Diego and she helped me. She looked at my reading skills and said, ‘Dominique. You can’t read anything.’ Once I became part of a reading program, I found out that I wasn’t alone in struggling to read.”
Dominique remembers the day when he realized that he was consistently breaking the code. “The letters and the sounds were all coming together for me. I broke down in tears and I raced home to tell my sister. It was my tutors who kept me encouraged.” One of his tutors was Gilbert Sandoval, a former literacy student himself. His tutors, all volunteers, saw that Dominique had the ability to read and reach his goals.

Eventually, his hard work paid off. “I can read my bills now. I can fill out an application; I can read a lot more work-related materials. I’m a janitor now. People think that janitors don’t need to do much reading. I not only have to read. I have to write and I have to do math.”

His future plans include going to college. “And I want to speak to other young people, the troublemakers and class clowns and low-level readers, because I know that if they learn the way that I did, they’re going to be more motivated than the average person. I want to be a schoolteacher.”
Dominique now reads at an eighth-grade level but is also enjoying college-level books.

More than 20 percent of adults in San Diego County read at the lowest level of literacy, and most of them are fluent in English. On this International Literacy Day, as the San Diego Council on Literacy celebrates its 25th anniversary, this is a good time to remind the San Diego community about the importance of literacy and its impact on individual lives, families, communities and indeed, the nation.
More assistance for literacy students and programs would translate into parents being better equipped to help their children with their schoolwork and employees being better prepared to meet the informational needs of an increasingly service-oriented economy. It would also result in residents being better able to critically read and interpret the social and political issues of our time and to participate with a stronger knowledge base in the local community, thus contributing greater vigor to our home, San Diego.

Literacy programs alone are not the solution. If we want our children to succeed in school, dropout rates to decrease, more children from low-income families to go to college, health care costs to decrease and health care quality to increase, better parenting, a reduction in crime and an increase in employability, we need communitywide investments in greater literacy.

As Dominique discovered, he was not alone. And, as Dominique has proved, our investments are making a world of difference. The “people’s campaign” requires people. We invite you, encourage you, to join the San Diego Council on Literacy in going to the core of so many of our community challenges through the power of literacy.

Cruz is chief executive officer of the San Diego Council on Literacy. Demetrion is an adjunct instructor at Virginia Commonwealth University.