Minnesota TRIO Day

Thanks to Amy Nemitz, director of TRiO Upward Bound at SMSU, for inviting us to participate in MN TRIO’s conference “Portraits of Success.” We offered two sessions on volunteering with or starting a community-based STEAM literacy program. Slides from the session can be accessed here.

Drop-in tutoring for adults at SMSU


We are having a good turnout for drop-in tutoring. We work with adults individually and in small groups to support them in meeting their literacy goals.

Most of our adults work during the day, so meeting in the evening is a good option for them. We try to provide lessons that can be finished up in an evening in case someone cannot attend consistently, but we also connect content to help learners build and practice their content area skills.

We welcome new learners and always need tutors! Call us at 507-401-7337 if you are interested.

Thank you for your support of Family Literacy!

Give to the Max Day 2016 was successful thanks to the generosity of several donors. We are happy to report that we easily met a $500 matching gift that was given in memory of Staff Sergeant Adam Thomas. Several donors gave in memory of Adam on #GTMD16 and in the days that followed. We raised nearly $1,800, which is a great start to our $30,000 Families Learning Family Literacy Campaign. These funds will allow us to add one or more family literacy classes in 2017 with an early childhood and adult education teacher working side by side with volunteer tutors to teach and learn from English language learner families.

We hope to finish our first targeted campaign by the end of February in time for a celebration on March 2, 2017, which also happens to be “Read Across America Day.” If you are interested in learning more about our plans or want to be involved, please contact Candace at 507-401-7337, or email literacy.swmn@gmail.com.



Reading connects us


Two readers, an uncle and his nephew

This is our son Adam, one of the best readers I have ever known.  Adam, a Green Beret, was killed in action in Afghanistan on October 4, 2016, which is one reason this website has not been updated recently.

Adam loved to read, most likely because his dad, I, and his older sister read to him from the day he was born. He was born into a literacy-rich environment, and his aunts and uncles knew the gift of books for Adam was always a great choice for birthdays and Christmas. By the time he was in kindergarten, he was already reading chapter books, and he never gave up this love of reading.

As an adult, Adam was incredibly good at giving books as gifts. I used to ask him if he wanted to be a librarian because he had a knack for picking out perfect titles for the diverse people within his circle of family and friends. When he was in college or in his own home or deployed, we regularly emailed or called one another with reading suggestions. We always sent books to him when he was overseas, and he would share them with others in his unit and leave them behind for the local interpreters to use to improve their English.

Adam liked the mission of Literacy Volunteers. He saw firsthand in his travels in the U.S. and abroad the difference access to good books and quality education made in the lives of people, especially girls and women. He liked learning about the immigrants and refugees our tutors work with and the languages they spoke. He was especially pleased that we integrate STEM literacy into all of our programs. He graduated with a double major in biology and environmental studies and loved math and science.

Adam understood that books and reading connect us. As his family and friends go about the difficult task of living a life without Adam here, I know that many of us will re-read the books we shared with one another and remember him.

Our hope is that all the families we work with are able to create a literacy-rich environment. If they speak more than one language, we hope they can access reading materials in multiple languages.  We hope everyone makes an effort to read and learn about things that are new and unfamiliar to them. Reading connects us. What a great idea!

International Literacy Day

ild16-unesco Why should International Literacy Day matter to people living here in southwest Minnesota?

This is the 50th anniversary of ILD. WeLiteracy is considered a human right. While significant progress has been made worldwide since the first ILD in 1966, it is estimated that 15% of people in the world are illiterate. The majority of these are women, most of them living in sub-Saharan Africa or South Asia. This creates a significant financial burden not only on these women and their children, but also leads to a greater economic burden and health concerns for their region and the world.

According to data from the survey of adult skills, 1 out of 6 adults in the United States reads below a level that is considered to be proficient enough to function well in a 21st century setting. 1 out of 3 adults in the U.S. lacks sufficient numeracy skills, and  1 out of 3 adults cannot problem solve adequately in a technology-rich environment. Such a lack of literacy skills has a real impact on both the workforce and social outcomes, including health and civic engagement.

We are fortunate in Minnesota to have quality schools, but a persistent achievement gap exists for students of color, English learners, and students from lower income families. We also have quality adult education options, but there are barriers to adult participation in such programs. The number one barrier is that adults need to work to support themselves and their families, and it can be difficult to balance work and family obligations in order to attend classes or participate in online learning.

Why should ILD matter? We live in a global economy and in an interconnected world. Literacy levels directly influence income and wages, women’s rights, children’s academic success, and political stability. When people do not have adequate literacy skills to function fully in 21st century society, the consequences of this have a negative effect on us all. Consider becoming a literacy volunteer and making a difference locally, and please stay informed about literacy issues on a global level. Our steps in August and September 2016 were intended to raise awareness about literacy issues. Thanks go to all our walkers.

Why a library and a literacy organization are hosting a birthday party for NPS

Tree huggers

We love our cottonwood tree!

Thursday, August 25, 2016, marks the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service #NPS100. The Organic Act of 1916 created a new agency with the mission to “….to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”

The Marshall Library and Literacy Volunteers of Southwest Minnesota love to celebrate, but we especially want to celebrate the National Park Service because, in the words of author Wallace Stegner, “National parks are the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst.

The NPS oversees 412 areas throughout the United States and its territories. These places offer to all of us recreation and education. They preserve natural lands and culturally and historically significant sites.

The kids and tree in the photo above represent all of us. Many of us do not know the names of the plants and animals in our immediate environment, and we are not making connections between our actions and the environmental costs of these actions. In a 2013 Benchmark Survey Report by the National Environmental Education Foundation, only 23% of adults surveyed said they had a somewhat higher knowledge than average about environmental issues. On cultural and historical issues, a 2014 Annenberg Public Policy Center survey revealed that 36% of adults surveyed correctly named the three branches of the federal government, but 35% could not name one of the branches. The kids in the photo above, by the way, could name all three branches, at least during our leadership learning unit! They were not so good at naming plants, birds, or arthropods.

We need to have both environmental and cultural literacy in order to uphold the democratic idea that Wallace Stegner highlights and to ensure our young people have the legacy preserved by NPS. Public libraries like the Marshall Lyon County Public Library are likewise the product of democratic ideals, intended to provide access to information and ideas that promote an educated citizenry. Not everyone is going to be able to travel to Acadia in Maine, the Dry Tortugas in Florida, Denali in Alaska, or Haleakalā in Hawaii, but we can learn about them and experience them through the print and digital resources of our local public library.

For LV*SW*MN, celebrating the National Park Service relates to our mission. The literacy goals of our learners include improving their historical, cultural, and scientific literacy. In creating our curriculum, we draw upon resources created by the National Park Service (as well as state parks and historical societies) and upon the firsthand experiences of our tutors and learners who have visited these sites. Our learners who are immigrants and refugees want to know about U.S. history and geography to better understand their new home. We consider the NPS as a natural partner in supporting our learners.

The final part of our mission statement, advocacy, means that we advocate for literacy and the people and organizations that make the various forms of literacy available to all people. This includes environmental and cultural literacy as well as citizenship education. NPS plays a crucial role in promoting these literacies, so we need to advocate for continued support for the work they do and for the infrastructure of the physical NPS sites. Happy Birthday NPS!


Counting steps raises literacy fitness

Literacy Volunteers of Southwest Minnesota is asking people to take steps for literacy here in southwestern Minnesota in order to raise awareness about literacy needs locally and globally.

Day 1 trek Comm Serv

Cam Bailey, City of Marshall Rec Coordinator, with Candace Thomas, LV*SW*MN Director

Cam graciously agreed to a photo when we stopped by the Marshall Community Services office on our walk to literacy and lifelong learning sites near downtown Marshall on 8/12/16. Cam knows as much about the need for lifelong physical activity and fitness as anyone I have ever met, and he and his staff work hard to provide opportunities for all ages. We at LiteracySWMN want people (as they are able) to walk and run over the next few weeks to promote their health and well-being. But we also want to encourage them to raise their awareness about literacy needs locally and globally and to check out their own literacy fitness levels. Most of us need to grow our own health, financial, or tech literacy skills, for example. Our volunteers who tutor support others in meeting their literacy fitness goals.

Walk with us and share your steps. We will update them on the website every day. You can use social media to note them using #litswmnsteps or text or call them in to 507-401-7337 or email them to literacy.swmn@gmail.com.

Literacy Volunteers of Southwest Minnesota is joining the International Literacy Association (ILA) in its 2016 “Steps to Advance Literacy” initiative because awareness is important and advocating for literacy is part of our mission. The initiative’s theme connects with International Literacy Day on September 8, 2016. ILA wants to raise awareness about the number of children worldwide who must walk long distances to reach a school. A child’s location and lack of safe physical access to a school is one of the major barriers to education in developing nations. As part of this initiative, ILA is asking individuals, classroom teachers, schools, and community organizations to count their steps as an awareness activity during some period from now through the end of 2016.

During the next few weeks leading up to International Literacy Day on September 8, 2016, we will share information about literacy locally and globally  via this website and on Facebook and Twitter @LiteracySWMN

Where else did we go on our walk? The Adult Community Center, the Marshall Independent, and SW Adult Basic Education’s Marshall Adult Learning Center. We finished up our walk at the Marshall-Lyon County Library in time to offer Tech Tutors on Friday afternoon. We will share more information about these and other community literacy and lifelong learning resources in the days to come.

Day 1 trek ABE

Pat Thomas, Marshall ABE Director, and Will Thomas (no relation), Literacy Volunteer, at the Marshall Adult Learning Center in the Lyon County Government Center.