They Want Something from You: They Want a Little Dignity
Author and literacy tutor Rob Shindler has no agenda to sell books, to his publisher’s dismay. Roaming the stage with evangelical passion, he announced his goal to those gathered for the “Tutor the Tutor” session at General Synod. “I just want to get one more person on board.”
He’s here to do that, as part of the UCC Reading Changes Lives literacy initiative.
Thirty-two-million adults in the United States read below the fourth grade level, which is the definition of illiteracy. That’s more people than live in the state of Texas.
Even more tragic than the problem is that the solution is solid, well established, and it works. It takes people willing to give up an hour a week to serve as tutors. In just 52 weeks, Shindler said, someone can gain the skills they lack and gain access to the social resources they need.
He told the story of Charles, one of his students, who only ordered hot dogs and hamburgers when eating out. Those were the only food names on the menu he could read — until he learned how.
“People who can’t read want something from you,” he said. “They want a little dignity,” Shindler said.
The author of Hotdogs & Hamburgers: Unlocking Life’s Potential by Inspiring Literacy at Any Age asserted, “If I can do this, you can do this.
“Everyone can do this.”
Kurt Karakul serves as another living demonstration of how individuals and organizations can make a difference. When Third Federal Bank needed a new headquarters in 1997, they chose to build in Cleveland’s Slavic Village. Alongside it, they created a charitable foundation. Karakul leads the Third Federal Foundation as president and executive director, striving to raise literacy rates in Cuyahoga County.
“You don’t invest in a community with just bricks and mortar,” he said. “You must invest in a community by investing in human capital.”
At that time, half of the city’s students were not graduating. “How do you change a system that is failing half of the kids?” they asked. The Third Federal Foundation launched a P-18 program, working with four schools to support their students from cradle to graduation. They have made Mindplay available, a blended computer program that can bring a child’s reading skills up to grade level if they spend just 40 hours with it over the course of an academic year.
After applauding Shindler and Karakul, many of the participants made their way to the boundaries of the room, where several literacy organizations and programs were waiting to recruit volunteers who would offer their students a little dignity.
So perhaps Shindler met his goal, getting just one more person on board.
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