WBEZ | literacy http://www.wbez.org/tags/literacy Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Global Activism: Bookwallah update on bringing books to Orphans in India http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-bookwallah-update-bringing-books-orphans-india-109505 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/bookwallah.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Seena Jacob is founder and CEO of <a href="http://www.bookwallah.org">Bookwallah</a> Organization. &ldquo;Bookwallah&rdquo; is a Hindi word that means &ldquo;book peddler.&rdquo; Her group works to give books and provide quality libraries to orphans in India. Seena is just back from India to give us an update.<iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/123417608&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=true" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>Seena on why this matters to us:</p><p>&ldquo;Why is this important, especially to people who may feel they aren&rsquo;t directly impacted? The world is globally connected and we learned that particularly during the Great Recession. But, if you know a child has suffered or has endured hardship such as HIV, abuse, living in brothels and you have a chance to make a difference in their lives -- bring hope, happiness, and smiles -- through the simple gift of a book-- does it matter where they live? A child is a child no matter where they live in the world. But, there are truly global challenges such as 793 million people who cannot read, 143 million orphans in the world who have undergone some major things in life. A [dollar] can go a long way in the developing world. So, to know that you can make a difference, be spiritually fulfilled in changing the life of one child, opening their world, should be a great motivator, particularly during this holiday season.&rdquo;</p></p> Thu, 05 Dec 2013 09:52:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-bookwallah-update-bringing-books-orphans-india-109505 Teacher brings library close to home for her Little Village neighbors http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/teacher-brings-library-close-home-her-little-village-neighbors-106825 <p><p>The enclosed porch behind Rachel Perveiler&rsquo;s Little Village apartment is crammed with shelves stuffed with books and games. It&rsquo;s also filled with children from her neighborhood.</p><p>Perveiler&rsquo;s porch is the meeting place for &ldquo;La Biblioteca del Personas,&rdquo; or the People&rsquo;s Library. Meeting here has become a weekly ritual for Perveiler and the children in her neighborhood.</p><p>&ldquo;Okay boys, are you turning in books?&rdquo; Perveiler asked brothers Joaquin and Jose Camacho.</p><p>&ldquo;I want to still keep this one, but I&rsquo;m returning this one back.&rdquo; Joaquin said.</p><p>&ldquo;Okay, go ahead, put it back,&rdquo; Perveiler said.</p><p>As the children looked through the shelves, pulling out books, Perveiler asked 9-year old Jaylene Rios what she thought of her most recent selection.</p><p>&ldquo;Did you like Charlotte&rsquo;s Web, or no?&rdquo; Perveiler asked.</p><p>&ldquo;Oh yeah. I&rsquo;m barely right there,&rdquo; Jaylene said, as she pointed to a place toward the beginning of the book.</p><p>&ldquo;The first chapter? Okay, so you liked it?&rdquo; Perveiler asked.</p><p>&ldquo;Yeah,&rdquo; Jaylene said.</p><p>Since the library began two years ago, the teacher said she&rsquo;s watched the kids develop what she hopes will become a life-long reading habit, and she&rsquo;s seen their reading skills improve.</p><p>She points to Jaylene, who started with Frog and Toad are Friends and has now moved on to Charlotte&rsquo;s Web.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;ve seen their interests grow,&rdquo; Perveiler said. Rather than just coming over because I&rsquo;m here and I&rsquo;m a new person, they come over actually to check out books, and they want to get a new book or they want to get a book that they know their friend just read.&rdquo;</p><p>The library began when the 23-year-old moved to Little Village back in 2011 to be close to her first job as a special education teacher at nearby Finkl Academy.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Porch%20Library%202%20-%20Rachel%20and%20Joaquin%281%29.JPG" style="float: right; height: 263px; width: 350px;" title="Joaquin Camacho talks with Rachel Perveiler as she checks in books. Perveiler uses a spiral notebook to keep track of what books are currently checked out. (WBEZ/Rebecca Kruth)" />Perveiler was moving into her apartment when some of the neighbor kids saw her carrying boxes.</p><p>&ldquo;They offered to help carry the boxes in. When they found out they were children&rsquo;s books, they were curious to see why [I had] all these children&rsquo;s books,&rdquo; Perveiler said.</p><p>The books were for her classroom, but since it was still summer, the kids asked if they could borrow them. They sat on her porch, read the books and returned them the same afternoon.</p><p>Word about the books soon spread in the neighborhood, and the children began coming to Perveiler&rsquo;s regularly. As the library evolved, the group members decided they needed to have some rules and expectations for members. They even developed a pledge, which greets visitors as they enter the library.</p><p>Joaquin Camacho, 9,&nbsp; read the hand-lettered poster out loud.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;As a member of the library, I pledge to be a role model. I promise to [show] respect and responsibility,&rdquo; Joaquin said. &ldquo;I promise these in the name of leadership, because the world needs leaders.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p>Before they can use the library, kids must also complete a special task. Each new member makes a bookmark to take home. After a week, they have to bring it back to Perveiler in good shape to prove they&rsquo;re responsible. If it&rsquo;s ruined, they have to do it again before they can check out a book.</p><p>Today, the library has around 500 books, mostly donations from friends and family. But, as Joaquin said, not all of the books come from outside sources.</p><p>&ldquo;My brother, Jose, and I are going to make a comic book, The Adventures of Big Fist and Lightning Man,&rdquo; Joaquin said. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re going to put it in the library with the other comics.&rdquo;</p><p>The library doesn&rsquo;t just have books for children: Leslie Luna, 9, said her father uses the library to improve his English.</p><p>&ldquo;He talks Spanish, and so he&rsquo;s practicing his English,&rdquo; Leslie said. &ldquo;When he was in Mexico he almost dropped out of school, because he needed to work for his family, so he didn&rsquo;t get to do a lot of education in his life.&rdquo;</p><p>Leslie said she chooses books for the two of them to read together. &ldquo;I like to help him, a lot,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>When Perveiler isn&rsquo;t available at the makeshift library, her boyfriend, Michael Aumiller, helps fill in. He said he&rsquo;s also the unofficial homework helper.</p><p>&ldquo;They have limited access to internet and that sort of thing, so they like to borrow my encyclopedias. I&rsquo;ll flag things down that are important,&rdquo; Aumiller said.</p><p>Aumiller said in neighborhoods facing challenges like Little Village, it&rsquo;s important to have an involved</p><p>network of neighbors.</p><p>&ldquo;Since the library started, I&rsquo;ve noticed we just have a greater sense of connection to the community,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;I just think that is something that is very important to the overall health of Drake Avenue.&rdquo;</p><p>As for Perveiler, she hopes that sense of community spreads to the kids, along with improved literacy skills.</p><p>&ldquo;I would like to see their interest in reading and their interest in each other socially, as friendships in their community, continue to grow,&rdquo; Perveiler said. &ldquo;If the space remains on the back porch always, that is perfectly fine with me.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Rebecca Kruth is a WBEZ Arts and Culture Desk intern. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/rjkruth" target="_blank">@rjkruth</a>.</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 25 Apr 2013 03:54:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/teacher-brings-library-close-home-her-little-village-neighbors-106825 Global Activism: Bookfriends International delivers books to kids in Africa http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-bookfriends-international-delivers-books-kids-africa-104971 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/bookfriends_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Wauconda couple Steve and Paulie Kutschat have a deep love for books. After a trip to Africa, the Kutschat&rsquo;s founded <a href="http://www.bookfriends.org/">Bookfriends International</a>, a nonprofit providing educational resources to secondary school-age children in Africa.</p><p>Bookfriends gives children text books, library books and reference materials in short supply. Donated books come from middle schools, high schools, libraries, individuals, book drives and book publishing companies.</p><p>&ldquo;It is not our goal to change their culture, their ideas or background. We are simply providing the student&rsquo;s opportunity through books to see the rest of the world,&rdquo; the Kutschats say.</p><p><em><strong>You can meet Global Activists like the Kutschat&#39;s at the <a href="http://www.wbez.org/air-events-6th-annual-global-activism-expo-102172">2013 Global Activism Expo</a>.</strong></em></p></p> Wed, 16 Jan 2013 16:28:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-bookfriends-international-delivers-books-kids-africa-104971 Literacy and adult education in North Lawndale http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/literacy-and-adult-education-north-lawndale-101983 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/IMG_0969.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>On August 24, the Barber Shop Show joined forces with Front and Center to talk low literacy and adult education in North Lawndale.&nbsp;In the Great Lakes region, one third of adults are low-literate. This means they have trouble with ordinary tasks like filling out a job application.</p><p>When hard times hit the region, North Lawndale is hit harder. The unemployment rate in this neighborhood is about three times the city&rsquo;s average. Almost half of families here live below the poverty line.</p><p>When it comes to getting more North Lawndale residents employed and lifting their earning potential, the key may be improving literacy.&nbsp;Raising adult education levels seems like a clear-cut way to increase employment and earnings. But making it happen isn&rsquo;t easy.</p><p>To find out more, Richard Steele and Kimbriell Kelly spoke with Nicole Hicks, a woman who recently overcame her fear of being the oldest person in class to earn her GED at age forty.</p><p>Later in the show, we heard from employer Mark O&rsquo;Hara. A GED and solid reading and writing skills are a requirement at his company. We learned about his challenges finding workers with the skills to kill bugs, and how his company, Andersen Pest Solutions, aims to address the skills gap.</p><p>After that, we were joined by Darren Tillis and Tameeka Christian with the North Lawndale Community Action Council on Education. Darren and Tameeka are working to improve parent engagement in North Lawndale schools. Key to their strategy is increasing literacy.</p><p><em>Every Friday, Vocalo.org heads to Carter&#39;s Barber Shop in North Lawndale for the live broadcast of&nbsp;<a href="http://www.vocalo.org/barbershop-show/" target="_blank">The Barber Shop Show</a>. &nbsp;Hosted by the Chicago Reporter&#39;s Kimbriell Kelly and WBEZ&#39;s Richard Steele,&nbsp;The Barber Shop Show is a weekly dose of real talk, straight from the shop floor.</em></p></p> Mon, 27 Aug 2012 14:15:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/literacy-and-adult-education-north-lawndale-101983 Teachers engage teens with realistic fiction, 'street literature' http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/teachers-engage-teens-realistic-fiction-street-literature-99695 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/teen_reading_flickr_holtsman_2.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Front and Center visited classrooms around Chicagoland to hear what gets teens excited about reading.</p><p>Amy Correa teaches sixth and seventh grade at Agassiz Elementary School in Chicago. She thinks the classics are important, but is worried that the new <a href="http://www.corestandards.org/" target="_blank">Common Core</a> standards emphasize this type of literature too much. She says her students gobble up realistic fiction novels, and they can learn how to model behavior by reading stories about teens in tough situations. Listen to Correa&#39;s classroom and hear more about how she gets kids excited about reading:</p><div class="mediaelement-audio"><audio class="mediaelement-formatter-identified-1339608200-1" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/Amy%20Correa%20WEB.mp3">&nbsp;</audio></div><p>&nbsp;</p><p>Mike Henry is a literacy coach and teacher at Reavis High School in Oak Lawn, Illinois. His approach to getting high school students excited about reading relies on student choice in reading materials. He says giving students options of realistic fiction gets them more engaged in reading. Listen to Henry&#39;s classroom and hear more about how he gets reluctant readers to build up their reading stamina:</p><div class="mediaelement-audio"><audio class="mediaelement-formatter-identified-1339608220-3" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/Mike%20Henry%20WEB.mp3">&nbsp;</audio></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 15 Jun 2012 08:26:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/teachers-engage-teens-realistic-fiction-street-literature-99695 Live call-in: From school to work, the low-literacy problem http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/live-call-school-work-low-literacy-problem-100098 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/flickr_garryknight.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Thursday on the <em>Afternoon Shift</em>, host Steve Edwards will talk with experts about our continuing literacy problem. We&rsquo;ll discuss why it happens and who&rsquo;s trying to fix it.</p><p>Our panel will include Betsy Rubin, an Adult &amp; Family Literacy Specialist at <a href="http://www.litworks.org/" target="_blank">Literacy Works</a> in Chicago. Rubin has over 30 years experience in adult basic education, English as a Second Language and family literacy programming. She is the author and editor of several adult education textbooks.</p><p><a href="http://www.erikson.edu/default/faculty/faclistings/jane_fleming.aspx">Jane Fleming</a> started teaching as a middle school math teacher 23 years ago in Washington, D.C.&nbsp; She discovered that many of her students struggled with math because they couldn&#39;t read well, so she went back to school and became a reading specialist. Now an associate professor at the Erikson Institute, most of Fleming&#39;s work focuses on accelerating literacy learning for children in urban public schools.</p><p>Gloria Mwase will also join the conversation. Mwase is the program director for <a href="http://www.jff.org" target="_blank">Jobs for our Future</a>, where her work centers on helping low-skilled adults across the nation improve their skills and increase their opportunities for secure employment.</p><p>We also want to hear from you during the show.</p><p>Tell us why you think we still have a problem of low-literacy. What role does technology play?</p><p>How does it affect you? In the store or on the phone with customer service? Working alongside others? And who&rsquo;s responsible for fixing the problem? Parents? Teachers? Employers? Society?</p><p>We&#39;ll be on-air today talking about these issues. Join us at 312-923-9239 starting at 2 p.m. Central.</p></p> Thu, 14 Jun 2012 09:45:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/live-call-school-work-low-literacy-problem-100098 Literacy and book pop culture: A global survey http://www.wbez.org/blogs/bez/2012-06/segment/literacy-and-book-pop-culture-global-survey-99986 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/AP120124123031.jpg" title="Muslims walk in at the 2012 Jaipur Literature Festival in the western Indian state of Rajasthan. (AP/Manish Swarup)" /></div><p>This month WBEZ&#39;s <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center">Front &amp; Center</a> has been taking an in-depth look at the impact of low-literacy in the Great Lakes region. As they wrap up their coverage of how reading and writing skills impact Americans&rsquo; chances for academic success and employment, <em>Worldview</em> looks at the culture of literacy in India, Latin America and Afghanistan.</p><p><strong>India: Where writers are stars</strong></p><div class="mediaelement-audio"><audio class="mediaelement-formatter-identified-1339439985-3" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/wv_20120611a.mp3">&nbsp;</audio></div><p>&nbsp;</p><p>India&rsquo;s book industry is booming &ndash; English language authors are treated like Bollywood stars, complete with lines for autographs and coverage by the paparrazi. <a href="http://www.chetanbhagat.com/" target="_blank">Chetan Baghat</a>, India&rsquo;s all-time best selling author, has over 930,000 followers on Twitter and two Bollywood adaptations under his belt.</p><p>India&#39;s glamorous book festivals have become so popular in the international literary scene that even Oprah Winfrey attended one of this year&rsquo;s festivals. While authors hold fancy book release parties in the western tradition, most of the country is still buying books out of stacks in road side stalls. And in Rajasthan, the western state which hosts one literary festival, the literacy rate is only 64 percent &ndash; well below the national average of 74 percent, according to a 2011 census.</p><p><a href="http://www.tajmahalfoxtrot.com/?page_id=7" target="_blank">Naresh Fernandes</a>, former Editor-in-Chief of <em>Time Out Bangalore</em>, and author <a href="http://www.vikramchandra.com/" target="_blank">Vikram Chandra</a> fill us in on the state of reading and writing in India.</p><p><strong>Latin America: Where books are status objects</strong></p><div class="mediaelement-audio"><audio class="mediaelement-formatter-identified-1339439985-4" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/wv_20120611b.mp3">&nbsp;</audio></div><p>&nbsp;</p><p>As is the case in India, in much of Latin America, book fairs are celebrity events akin to Hollywood film premiers. Magazines and books, especially in provinces outside the cities, are held in extremely high regard.</p><p>Accessibility is on the rise due to an improving economic climate in Latin America. Development has also led to a new rash of emerging journalists and non-fiction writers. Award-winning author Daniel Alarcón believes this comes from a growing need for self-interpretation. Alarcón has spent extensive time immersed in the literary culture of Peru and other Latin American countries, and&nbsp; observes noticeable differences between those countries and the United States. He joins <em>Worldview</em> to enumerate some of those differences.<br /><br /><strong>Afghanistan: Where literacy is a national security issue</strong></p><div class="mediaelement-audio"><audio class="mediaelement-formatter-identified-1339439985-5" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/wv_20120611c.mp3">&nbsp;</audio></div><p>&nbsp;</p><p>The U.S. and NATO hope to build up the Afghan military and leave the country in their hands by 2014. Afghans are participating: People want a paycheck, so they&rsquo;re joining the armed forces and the police.</p><p>But there&rsquo;s a major piece missing. It&rsquo;s estimated that only 28 percent of the Afghan population can read. <a href="http://www.stripes.com/news/coalition-troops-hope-to-improve-afghan-pilots-literacy-and-eventually-aviation-skills-1.172087">Literacy rates among Afghan forces recruits are even lower</a>, estimated at about 10 to 15 percent.</p><p>Reporter Heath Druzin has seen the illiteracy problem up close. His recent article for <em>Stars and Stripes</em> details how many Afghan recruits must start from scratch, and learn how to read and write. They don&#39;t need great computer skills &ndash; they&rsquo;re flying mostly old Russian helicopters &ndash; but they must still write flight logs and read repair manuals. And, if soldiers and police can&rsquo;t read ID badges, they don&rsquo;t know who should be allowed through security checkpoints. Illiteracy can somethings bring things to halt. Druzin said if an Afghan Humvee breaks down, it sometimes sits there because no one can read the repair manual.</p><p>Druzin joins <em>Worldview</em> to explore the depth of the problem.</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 11 Jun 2012 11:21:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/bez/2012-06/segment/literacy-and-book-pop-culture-global-survey-99986 Shrinking prison budgets eliminate educational opportunities http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/shrinking-prison-budgets-eliminate-educational-opportunities-99903 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/neal_portis_for_web_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Marvin Marshall was 17 when he first went to prison for assault and battery. He dropped out of high school in junior year, made some bad choices and was arrested and imprisoned a few times.</p><p>&ldquo;It was pretty boring,&rdquo; Marshall said about prison. &ldquo;Your day consists of walking around aimlessly, just talking, you just read, or tried to work out.&nbsp; You don&rsquo;t have anything to occupy your time constructively, so you&rsquo;re either going to hang out with people who are going do more crime and find out a better way to do better crime.&rdquo;</p><p>About 60 percent of all prison inmates test below a sixth grade reading level.&nbsp; In The past, many states boasted good educational programs. Illinois was one of those states. East Moline and Vienna Correctional Center educated its prisoners.&nbsp; But budget cuts have affected ex-offenders&rsquo; educational opportunities.&nbsp;</p><p>Marshall had low reading skills. He wanted to take classes in prison, but couldn&rsquo;t.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;While in prison, school was available but only to first offenders,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;If you were there more than once wasn&rsquo;t able to get into the [high school] in IDOC.&nbsp; If you were in the IDOC, currently doing a sentence, you had more than one case, some type of clinch where you couldn&rsquo;t be in the GED class.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p>After he got out of prison, Marshall turned his attention to the only thing he knew how to do.</p><p>&ldquo;I just went back to crime, just surviving,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s a snowball effect. You get a bright idea and you&rsquo;re back in jail. It&rsquo;s been very difficult to adapt positively into society without education.&rdquo;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>Millions of people enter prison with low literacy every year. And in the past, as many as 900 former inmates left Illinois prisons with a bachelor&rsquo;s degree each year. They did it by receiving need-based federal Pell grants.</p><p>But the Crime Control Act of 1994 barred future prisoners from getting financial assistance for bachelor&rsquo;s degrees. And Malcolm Young says that changed the educational programming within the prison system.</p><p>Young studies prisoner reentry and employment at Northwestern University School of Law. He says in the past, former inmates had plenty of opportunities to learn. They told him services were not difficult to find.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;They described a prison system that was fairly rich with educational programs from secondary and post-secondary levels, vocational programs in a number of fields, and a lot of training and a lot of activities for younger inmates,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;And these folks described to me coming through the system, maturing, getting their lives together, and coming out, making parole or being released and doing alright.&rdquo;</p><p><br />Young says community college involvement with prisons has reduced dramatically: more than 80 percent of educational programs involving community colleges have disappeared.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;ve heard the current system, the current (Department of Correction&rsquo;s) programming described as kind of a desert compared to what it used to be in the old days,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;You can go into a number of Illinois prisons and still see the shops or locations where these programs were taught, but now they&rsquo;re empty.&rdquo;</p><p>Young says it wasn&rsquo;t just a change in prison finances. It was a change in mindset too.</p><p>He says as part of a national trend to get &ldquo;tough on crime&rdquo; directors of the Illinois Department of Corrections shifted the emphasis from rehabilitation and program work to keeping people locked up.</p><p>Deborah Denning, chief of program and support services for the Illinois Department of Corrections, says they still have educational programs now but many come as a result of thinking creatively.</p><p>&ldquo;If we can&#39;t find the colleges that will come in and help us to create those literacy programs then we have to use the resources within the facility, and look for those individuals who are capable of teaching others and want to do that,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Young says that&rsquo;s not enough. Prisons are overcrowded.&nbsp; And many inmates are there with short sentences.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s almost fictional that it&rsquo;s going to provide the kind of benefit that we really want,&rdquo; Young said. &ldquo;If you were an educator, what would you do in six months that would really make a difference?&nbsp; Whatever it is, we&rsquo;re not doing it.&rdquo;</p><p>That leaves non-profits and places like halfway houses to pick up the slack. Marshall turned to St. Leonard&rsquo;s Ministries in Chicago after his time in prison. He earned his high school diploma there, and is now taking a college prep course nearby.</p><p>Neal Portis, 30, lives at St. Leonard&rsquo;s Ministries in Chicago. He says the educational services offered there have made all the difference in his life after prison.</p><p>&ldquo;When people get back out here into this society they coming out with a chip on their shoulder,&rdquo; he said &ldquo;They&rsquo;re coming back out the same way that they went in.&rdquo;</p><p>Portis improved his writing skills in St. Leonard&rsquo;s classes. Now he&rsquo;s writing about his past experiences for fun.</p><p>&ldquo;When I write my little screenplays, it&rsquo;s safe, no one&rsquo;s being harmed,&rdquo; he said.&nbsp;&nbsp; &ldquo;Because I&rsquo;m using something that was at one point a negative thing and I just turned it into something positive.&nbsp; I just want to see how this turn out.&nbsp; I ain&rsquo;t got nothing to lose, so I&rsquo;m going to keep writing.&rdquo;</p></p> Thu, 07 Jun 2012 12:48:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/shrinking-prison-budgets-eliminate-educational-opportunities-99903 How immigrants learn English in rural America http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/how-immigrants-learn-english-rural-america-99491 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Beardstown-Class.jpg" title="Every year, more than 200 students take English as a Second Language classes run by Lincoln Land Community College in Beardstown. (WBEZ/Tanveer Ali)" /></div><p>Immigrants have long turned to rural America as a source of work, but often struggle because they lack English language skills.</p><p>That&rsquo;s a little different in Beardstown, Ill., a town about an hour west of Springfield. Beardstown is home to about 6,000 people.&nbsp;</p><p>In many ways, it&rsquo;s like other rural towns &ndash; struggling local economies surrounded by cornfields.</p><p>But Beardstown is also home to a large pork-processing plant that&rsquo;s owned by Minnesota-based Cargill, Inc.</p><p>Over the past few decades, the plant has legally hired hundreds of immigrants. Most are from Latin America and Africa.</p><p>Those employees and the families they bring speak mostly Spanish and French, with minimal English skills. They have changed the fabric of Beardstown.</p><p>&ldquo;I need to learn English to talk to doctors,&rdquo; Cargill employee Alejandro Lopez said.</p><p>And his child&rsquo;s teachers. And his employers. And many of his Beardstown neighbors.</p><p>In the last decade, Beardstown&rsquo;s Latino population doubled to around 2,000. The influx of Cargill employees has kept the town&rsquo;s population from shrinking.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div>Cargill is working to educate its non-English speaking employees, though the company won&rsquo;t say how much money it invests in it.</div><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Beardstown-Cargill.jpg" style="height: 120px; width: 180px; margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px; float: left;" title="Minnesota-based Cargill, Inc. owns a pork processing plant in Beardstown, Ill., which serves as the largest employer in town. (WBEZ/Tanveer Ali)" /></div><p>&ldquo;Our employee is not a very engaged employee if you can&rsquo;t talk to them on a daily basis in some form or fashion,&rdquo; said Steve Pirkle, Cargill&rsquo;s plant manager.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s about communication,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Once you get past the application as well as the interview then you get into work instructions, safety instruction.&rdquo;</p><p>Pirkle said improving literacy levels of employees helps them outside the plant too.</p><p>&ldquo;Some of them have families,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Some of them may have other issues. Health issues. School issues. Need to go to the dentist. It&rsquo;s about the work-life issues that they may have and being able to communicate in some form or fashion in their life.&rdquo;</p><p>Educating Cargill employees is a community effort. The company gets help from the local public library. Lincoln Land Community College hosts English as a Second Language classes at the plant.</p><p>Many of the classes address issues that directly deal with Cargill operations, covering topics such as how to fill out vacation request forms and the meaning of symbols throughout the plant.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Beardstown-SpanLib.jpg" style="height: 120px; width: 180px; float: left; margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px;" title="About one fourth of the books at Beardstown Houston Memorial Library are in Spanish or French, the two most prominent languages spoken by immigrants there. (WBEZ/Tanveer Ali)" />The public library plays an important helping immigrants improve their English, pursue a GED or navigate the citizenship process.</p><p>&ldquo;We try to stress the importance of getting a library card and checking out books,&rdquo; said Molly Rice, director of the Beardstown Houston Memorial Library. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re trying to get them acclimated to the culture here but also keeping their own culture too. We don&rsquo;t want to take that away.&rdquo;</p><p>Attendance at the library has skyrocketed in recent years thanks to its outreach efforts. About one fourth of its book collection is not in English.</p><p>The library is busiest on weekdays around 3 p.m. when children are let out of school and shifts change at the Cargill plant.</p><p><em>&ldquo;</em>We are pretty tiny but we get used quite a bit,&rdquo; Rice said.</p><p>The library is a source of pride for the community, including second-generation immigrants and immigrants who moved to the town at a very early age.</p><p>Ricardo Montoya Picazo works at the library.&nbsp; He came to Beardstown from Mexico as a child. His father worked at Cargill.</p><p>&ldquo;I came into the country, I thought everybody spoke Spanish,&rdquo; Picazo said. &ldquo;Spanish was my world.&rdquo;</p><p>Picazo learned English at the library, and is now helping others do the same.</p><p>&ldquo;(It) is not only about access of books but access of information that will help them in the future to learn English,&rdquo; Picazo said.</p><p>Learning English gave Picazo a wider range of options than just joining his father at the plant. He is pursuing a master&rsquo;s degree and a career in politics.</p><p>&ldquo;Our present generation has evolved,&rdquo; Picazo said.</p><p><em>Public libraries across the nation have seen an increasing number of users in recent years, an issue that small libraries such as that in Beardstown has had to grapple with while dealing with a shrinking budget.</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><script type="text/javascript" src="http://public.tableausoftware.com/javascripts/api/viz_v1.js"></script><div class="tableauPlaceholder" style="width:654px; height:683px;"><noscript><a href="#"><img alt="Map " src="http:&#47;&#47;public.tableausoftware.com&#47;static&#47;images&#47;Pu&#47;PublicLibrariesByState&#47;Map&#47;1_rss.png" style="border: none" /></a></noscript><object class="tableauViz" height="683" style="display:none;" width="654"><param name="host_url" value="http%3A%2F%2Fpublic.tableausoftware.com%2F" /><param name="site_root" value="" /><param name="name" value="PublicLibrariesByState/Map" /><param name="tabs" value="no" /><param name="toolbar" value="yes" /><param name="static_image" value="http://public.tableausoftware.com/static/images/Pu/PublicLibrariesByState/Map/1.png" /><param name="animate_transition" value="yes" /><param name="display_static_image" value="yes" /><param name="display_spinner" value="yes" /><param name="display_overlay" value="yes" /><param name="display_count" value="yes" /></object></div><div style="width:654px;height:22px;padding:0px 10px 0px 0px;color:black;font:normal 8pt verdana,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;"><div style="float:right; padding-right:8px;"><a href="http://www.tableausoftware.com/public?ref=http://public.tableausoftware.com/views/PublicLibrariesByState/Map" target="_blank">Powered by Tableau</a></div></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 05 Jun 2012 07:30:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/how-immigrants-learn-english-rural-america-99491 Re-writing the GED test http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/re-writing-ged-test-99286 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/IMG_5681_small_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="281" mozallowfullscreen="" src="http://player.vimeo.com/video/42854350" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="500"></iframe></p><p>Ericka Coleman remembers seeing a sign about&nbsp;General Educational Development&nbsp;(GED) classes at the library near her house in St. Paul, Minn.</p><p>The 21-year-old dropped out of high school in one year shy of graduation to take care of her family. Now that things are more stable at home, Coleman can shift focus back to her future.</p><p>&ldquo;I didn&rsquo;t even know what a GED was and I sure didn&rsquo;t think it was anything good,&rdquo; Coleman said. &ldquo;I talked to people and found out it&rsquo;s almost like getting a high school diploma. You can still go to college or get a job.&rdquo;</p><p>Coleman wants to do both. She imagines working at a hospital while she studies to be a nurse. She already passed the GED reading test. She has math, social studies, science and writing to go. She&rsquo;s tackling one subject at a time. But she&rsquo;s worried about a looming deadline.</p><p>&ldquo;If you don&rsquo;t finish your tests by Dec. 31 of next year, you have to start all over again,&rdquo; Coleman said.</p><p>She&rsquo;s right. The old GED test is being retired for good.</p><p>The 72-year-old exam is being overhauled. Employers and educators say the current test does a poor job evaluating the skills that employees and college students need. The new version debuts in 2014.</p><p>Randy Trask, the president and CEO of the <a href="http://www.gedtestingservice.com/ged-testing-service" target="_blank">GED Testing Service</a>, says the new test will evaluate critical thinking skills. The GED Testing Service is the developer and distributor of the test.</p><p>It is aligned with the rigorous new <a href="http://www.corestandards.org/" target="_blank">Common Core</a> teaching standards for K-12 education that have been adopted by 45 states.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s a direct correlation between what high school and the GED test will measure, and the skills, knowledge and abilities necessary to do well in college and the workforce,&rdquo; Trask said.</p><p>In addition to measuring high school equivalency, there will be a new threshold of passing. Students can earn an endorsement that says they&rsquo;re ready to work or, if they score better, a certificate that says they&rsquo;re ready for college.</p><p>Educators are raising graduation standards in an effort to keep Americans competitive in the global economy. They are also trying to keep young people in school. An estimated <a href="http://www.all4ed.org/about_the_crisis" target="_blank">7,000 Americans</a> drop out every day.</p><p>&ldquo;Every year, the number of people without a high school diploma grows,&rdquo; Trask said. &ldquo;We have to do things differently.&rdquo;</p><p>Professionals who work with adult learners agree the old test is outdated.</p><p>&ldquo;If we change what you have to learn to attain that credential, people will rise to that,&rdquo; said Pam Ampferer, a GED instructor at the <a href="http://hubbs.spps.org/" target="_blank">Ronald M. Hubbs Center for Lifelong Learning</a> in St. Paul.</p><p>Ampferer is more concerned about the new format. Starting in 2014, the GED will only be administered on computers. The test can only be taken at official GED testing centers. The GED test cannot be taken online. Registration, scheduling and test scores will be available online.</p><p>Ampferer says the new test may leave behind students who don&rsquo;t have computer skills. Most Hubbs Center students are poor and many are not native English-speakers.</p><p>&ldquo;I want to know if they understand who our population is,&rdquo; said Kristine Halling, supervisor at the Hubbs Center.&nbsp;</p><p>As test designers work on data collection and online registration, test-takers face obstacles like babysitters who don&rsquo;t show up, and cars that break down.</p><p>Halling is also concerned about the cost of retooling for the new test.&nbsp; The Hubbs Center will have to invest scarce dollars installing proprietary software and training teachers to use the new curricula.</p><p>&ldquo;Students will need digital literacy skills,&rdquo; Halling said.&nbsp; &ldquo;We&rsquo;re working hard to make sure the technology piece isn&rsquo;t going to slow them down.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Correction: The original text piece inaccurately reported the acronym for GED. It stands for General Educational Development. </em></p></p> Mon, 04 Jun 2012 14:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/re-writing-ged-test-99286