When You Bring Books to Work, Everyone Wins

When You Bring Books to Work, Everyone Wins

Note: We are supporting WKYC’s literacy campaign and we’ll be posting #wereadhere selfies on social media throughout the day. Please join us!

September 8th is International Literacy Day.  The World Literacy Foundation, the supporting organization for this campaign, rightly states that

“whether it’s reading or writing, literacy is an outlet to an untouchable world – your imagination. Not only is literacy a basic human right, it is a fundamental building block for learning as well as a personal empowerment tool. It is the catalyst for social and global progress.”

International Literacy Day brings awareness to the many adults and children in our world who lack basic reading and writing skills. It’s a wonderful opportunity to support your local literacy organizations – and there are certainly many – that help develop literacy in adult and child learners.

If you’re reading this post, then you surely know the value of literacy. You hopefully appreciate the power and magic of reading, the ability to transport yourself through book, or communicate with a colleague, or get information off the Internet. And as we’ve written, basic reading and writing skills pave the way for the increasingly complex literacies necessary for our 21st-century lives.  Though efforts to reach adults and children who lack basic literacy skills are numerous and important, these initiatives often miss a large class of adults who are functionally literate but haven’t had the opportunity to develop higher-order literacy skills. These include critical thinking, complex verbal and written communication and metacognition. Adults no longer a part of  the educational system have few opportunities to develop higher-order literacy skills and the lack of them can negatively impact earning potential and social confidence. Further, adults without strong literacy practices likewise face greater challenges in fostering them in their children.

Fortunately, it is possible to simultaneously cultivate complex literacies in adults and reach early learners. Books@Work seminars teach us time and time again that we can have our cake and eat it, too. In exit interviews, participants consistently report that their reading experiences with Books@Work translated into reading experiences at home, with their children. Here are some of those stories:

Gustav Doré, Mother Goose Reading Written Fairy Tales, 1866 [Public Domain] via Wikimedia Commons

Gustav Doré, Mother Goose Reading Written Fairy Tales, 1866 [Public Domain] via Wikimedia Commons

In a program we ran for non-teaching staff in a school system, one participant explained that she used her seminar book to practice reading with her son. “I asked him to point out some sight word sometimes,” she recalled, “and some were too big for him but he had to learn 220 sight words being in Kindergarten. He thought it was pretty cool.” Another read Kafka’s The Metamorphosis to her children, and it helped her connect with her son: “My oldest son is kind of like me so he related to it in the same way[. . .] My son is the oldest and I am an oldest child, so I think you understand always giving.”

In another program for food service staff, many seminar members reported passing their books on to their children, stating that “it was nice to carry over something I’m doing at work with my kids,” and reporting that the seminar “refreshed the desire to read with my children. I have five children and they’re all different ages. It’s easy to read with a toddler, but as they get older, the boys certainly don’t want to read and talk. During the holidays, the gifts I gave my kids were a lot of books.” One even used The Giver to help her children through the loss of a grandparent.

At Books@Work we celebrate literacy every day, and stories like these reinvigorate our desire to do so. Please celebrate with us this week – give a book as a gift, read with your child or contact a local literacy program and see how you can help, too. And, of course, pick up a book and read,  yourself!

Further Reading:

The Top 10 Things You Can Do to Promote Literacy

How Reflecting on Literature Improves Workplace Performance

Reading Tales of Adventure with Children

Image: Pekka Halonen, Children Reading, 1916, Espoo Museum of Modern Art [Public Domain] via Wikimedia Commons

Cecily Erin Hill

Cecily Erin Hill

Cecily Hill is the Project Director, NEH for All at the National Humanities Alliance and former member of the Books@Work team.