Category Archives: Uncategorized

Shopping in Minnesota

lol-headerWords matter. Oh, yes they do!

 Some years ago, I was in a big box retailer, the one that stocks packages of paper towels by the dozen and luggage-sized jars of mustard. It was Minneapolis, and the Twin Cities had recently welcomed a large population of Hmong, people whose own language was not written until the twentieth century. They came from a nomadic and much warmer environment than the Lutheran lake of ice that is Minnesota in winter. (Police were sometimes required to uncover a coatless boy asleep in the snow – hypothermia to blame.)

I can shop in a phonebox, so this first club experience was thrilling, even though nothing in the store would fit in my tiny apartment except the glee-club-sized packet of #2 pencils. Still, I pounded every aisle, marveled at the abundance, and became slightly terrified of the forklifts. There is no order in big box; ketchup vats sit beside curling irons. Baking soda shares a shelf with motor oil. As I came around an endcap of lentils and baby wipes, I observed a man who had wrestled 2 sample aerosol cans out of their giant packages. He was holding them, staring at them, deciding. In his left hand, whipped cream. In his right, insect repellant. I still wonder what he chose and the consequences of that decision.

Read something. Write something. Say all the words on the labels right out loud. Someone might be listening!

International Literacy Day – marking 50 years

All over the world, people are commemorating the 50th anniversary of the International Literacy Day, founded in 1965 to draw attention to the challenges full literacy faces throughout the world.

The Day’s sponsor, UNESCO, reports that, despite gains, 775 million adults cannot read or write. Women account for two-thirds of that number. Among youth, 122 million are illiterate, and 74 million are girls and young women. While the overall size of the global illiterate population is shrinking, the female proportion—roughly 64%—does not budge.  As is the case with many human rights, girls and women participate at a disproportionately low level.

To mark the progress that has been made and to encourage us toward the future, events are planned all over the globe this week, from Ireland to Pakistan to India. From New York to East Cleveland to the Great Plains of Oklahoma, folks are marking the day. 

So, three cheers for organizations such as International Literacy Association. “Bravo!” to teachers in night schools and libraries and makeshift classrooms everywhere.  

Read. Write. Share. Let’s make the reports a whole lot better by 2025.

Hotlanta reads!

lol-header Summer is over, phooey! Now, how did we keep those kiddos reading?

Some communities addressed that challenge in super ways. Take Atlanta. This forward-thinking city launched a program designed to address “summer slide” on the day before last class. “School’s Out! Reading is In!” launched on May 22 for kindergarten to 12th grade across more than 100 schools. 50,000 students received 4 books, appropriate to their grade-level, to be read over the summer. An accompanying letter asked parents to spend time reading with their children. 

This is the scary part. “Research shows that children who have not developed some basic literacy skills by the time they enter school are three or four times more likely to drop out in later years,” said Dr. Alisha Hill, Atlanta Public Schools’ 6-12th grade literacy coordinator. “A national adult literacy survey indicates that 44 million adults in the United States cannot read well enough to read a simple story to a child.” Read up here

Family involvement is key in encouraging a life-long love of reading, and schools who partner with families know that learning takes no breaks. 

Go, Atlanta. Read to your children. And applaud as your children read to you.

About Gemma Open Doors

An innovative program of original works by some of our most beloved modern writers, originally designed in Ireland to promote adult literacy. These fresh stories showcase new writing from both best-selling authors and emerging voices.

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