Literacy Elsewhere

March 24, 2016
Post: Literacy Elsewhere

By Dan Helms

In the United States, the definition of literacy keeps changing. For example, on its website, the National Council of Teachers of English contends that a literate person in the 21st century must possess a wide range of abilities and competencies, or many literacies. As such, the NCTE has expanded its definition of literacy as follows:

Active, successful participants in this 21st century global society must be able to:

  • Develop proficiency and fluency with the tools of technology;
  • Build intentional cross-cultural connections and relationships with others so to pose and solve problems collaboratively and strengthen independent thought;
  • Design and share information for global communities to meet a variety of purposes;
  • Manage, analyze, and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous information;
  • Create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multimedia texts;
  • Attend to the ethical responsibilities required by these complex environments. (

Similarly, in Scotland, literacy is now defined as “The ability to read, write and use numeracy, to handle information, to express ideas and opinions, to make decisions and solve problems, as family members, workers, citizens and lifelong learners.” (“Adult Literacy and Numeracy in Scotland” (2001)).

Thinking along these lines, your ILA Board thought it could be beneficial, if not enlightening, to take a look at the activities, initiatives, and strategies being employed by literacy associations in other states, who all share the same overall mission as ours. This month, we have focused on Wisconsin. I reached out to Trena Anderson, a Wisconsin Literacy Regional Consultant, to learn more. Here are some of the topics we discussed.

Wisconsin Public Radio
For one full week in February, listeners of Wisconsin Public Radio could tune in every morning for Wisconsin Life, a 5-day series about literacy. Wisconsin Literacy Inc. (WLI), and five of its member agencies, had the opportunity to present the many facets of their literacy initiative and feature student interviews. A different theme was presented each day. The themes included: A Snapshot of Literacy in Wisconsin; Literacy as an Economic Issue; Challenges of Learning to Read Later in Life and Obtaining a GED; Teaching Refugees to Read, Write & Speak English; and Health Literacy. Anyone interested in listening to one or all presentations can download podcasts at

Celebration of Literacy
For 11 years, WLI has hosted an annual Celebration of Literacy ceremony, and will do so this year on April 11th. WLI member agencies can submit award nominations. Each award winner and honorable mention recipient receives a complimentary event registration. The event is a formal luncheon with an awards presentation and includes speakers, including a keynote address. The keynote speaker is often arranged through LINCS. Announcements that can be shared with the press and through social media channels are sent to the member agencies. This is a sponsored event. Sponsors include the Wisconsin Technical College System, health care agencies and hospitals, the International Dyslexia Association, and McGraw-Hill Education.

The Big Share
WLI participated in The Big Share on March 1, 2016! The Big Share is 24 hours of locally-focused online giving with matching grants and prizes dedicated to supporting the incredible nonprofits that improve the WI communities. Many of these non-profits work statewide like WLI to support their members. This year, they have huge plans to MESSAGE ABOUT HOW HARD ALL ARE WORKING TO PROVIDE AND PROMOTE LITERACY SERVICES.

Health Literacy
Trena mentioned that the Wisconsin Health Literacy division is recognized as one of the top five in the country. WHL offers a multitude of services including: Awareness Building; Consultation and Assessment; Education and Training; Advocacy; Health Literacy Projects; and a Health Literacy Summit – a biennial conference featuring national speakers and over 25 different breakout sessions and a poster presentation. Interested persons can learn more at

Social Media
I have noticed that WLI does a great job of promoting themselves and their member agencies through social media. I see their posts on Facebook regularly. Here’s an example of one such post from Literacy Green Bay, promoting its Scrabble Bee fundraising event. The Scrabble Bee includes dinner, a cash bar, silent auction, oral auction, raffles, and Scrabble with a twist. All tables at this event are sponsored by area businesses. As you can see, Wisconsin Literacy is a very active organization. They organize and hold all of these events, and many more. Great job, WLI, of promoting the “many literacies” that are crucial to successfully participating in our 21st Century society!

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