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6 Ways To Help Literacy in Your Community

mfuller #NWARKCares blogger, Keisha Pittman – BigPittStop – asked on InstagramWhen did you learn to read?” Do you even remember? I do. Vividly. My brother was obsessed with teaching me to read. He started with a Doctor Doolittle cardboard puzzle in a tray that had 26 pieces. He put the a letter of the alphabet on each one and would make me match them up a-z without looking at the picture side. I remember doing it over and over when I was 3 on the floor of his bedroom, which, because he was a teenager, was usually off limits to me.

Then he took the large print King James Bible that was my grandmothers and started me reading from that. He would underline each word that I started to recognize until full verses were read/memorized.

After that we moved on to Shirley Temple songs. I can still, if asked, sing Animal Crackers. Don’t ask, please. He had the sheet music and we would read/sing along together. I was like a living doll to him, I think.

Skipping Ahead

Reading was essential in my house because it was a means of escape. I would spend hours at the library as a preteen looking for the perfect book. This was way before the huge YA sections that they have now. So you had to pick through the adult fiction and the kids section to find something that was perfect for a precocious 12 year old.

Reading Now

My husband calls me the Supreme Book Reader of the World. Not a bad title. I read about 2-3 books, fiction and nonfiction, a week. I used to put them all in Goodreads, but I read too fast and I don’t really care about a record. I read just about everything except horror or violent thrillers – life is scary enough I don’t need that in my head. Now that I have my iPad I always have a book with me because I download the free collection from the Eureka Springs Public Library – a pretty sweet tool. I also, when I am super hooked on a series – hello, Percy Jackson and St. Mary’s – will buy downloads from Amazon. Plus, I buy books still and check out actual paper copies from the library. I don’t know what I would do without my library ladies, actually, they are my research and development for most of my life. If I get interested in a topic I will interlibrary loan tons of books on the subject. I sometimes wonder what they think. They are much to discrete to say!

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Why does all of this matter?

1 in 4 children can’t read in the US. In Arkansas, children from poverty income level households might not have any books in their homes. That lack of reading material will stop them from reaching their full potential. They plan prisons by how many illiterate children enter fourth grade. This is serious stuff and we all can do something about it. This isn’t someone else’s problem – this is our problem. If we aren’t setting up 100% of kids to be successful in school and life we are failing. Books are an easy solution.

Literacy Statistics in Arkansas: In 2003, the National Center for Education Statistics estimated that 13% of the adult population of Washington County was lacking in basic prose literacy skills. They found 12% of the population similarly affected in Benton County, 14% in Sebastian County and 15% in Madison County.

Here are 6 ways you can help literacy in your community.

  • Contact your local elementary school and see if they need books donated.
  • Contact your local library and see if they need books donated, readers for after school programs, or donations to reading programs in the area.
  • Buy the Free Little Library Book and they will donate $150 worth of books for a Free Little Library by you. Free Little Libraries are always in need of children’s books. You can look at the site to find these cute little libraries in your neighborhood.
  • Contact your local literacy council. In Northwest Arkansas it is the Ozark Literacy Council, but you can google the council in your area. They will have a variety of ways to donate money, time and books to help with their cause.
  • Contact your local food bank and see if they could use a children’s story reader during peak times to help parents do the shopping they need while the kids are supervised.
  • Volunteer at a women and family shelter to read to the kiddo’s or donate books. You could, with your book club, make sure that every kid that enters gets a book of their own. Ownership is a big deal to kids in transition.

I love to read. It is my number one pleasure and I am grateful that my brother wanted to teach his living doll this skill. His vision of me as a reader has far exceeded Shirley Temple and Doctor Doolittle puzzles!

#NWARKCares is a project of the Northwest Arkansas Bloggers. Each month this dynamic group of writers, podcasters, vloggers, and social media pros are tackling an issue and the resources to make a difference right here in our corner of the state. You can follow along on Twitter. Are you a blogger in Northwest Arkansas Carroll, Madison, Washington or Benton Counties? You can join our efforts here!

Love is the absence of judgment

Love Word Art by Creations by StarrC on Etsy Over a decade ago, wanting a simpler life, our family moved to the middle of the country. As city dwellers this was a huge change for us on basic levels, but what it did for my tendency to judge was fill my heart with compassion. Living on the West Coast it was so easy to dismiss everyone else as not as cool, intelligent or cutting edge. Not knowing anyone in the “fly over” states we were able to quickly dismiss them as unimportant. What a mistake we had made, not in moving, but in dismissing the depth and richness of spirit of those around us.

Making the change from city snob to simple kindness wasn’t easy, but the lessons are ones that will live with me forever. Having a cool heart isn’t the life I ever wanted, softening into love is a powerful place to be and I am grateful that my neighbors and friends allowed me to stumble into their lives without grace or understanding.

It is so easy to fall into the place where we judge everyone around us. We learn this early on the playground to exclude anyone we don’t think is worthy of our time and energy. That self-selecting by keeping everyone at bay may trick us into thinking we are the cool kids, but what it really does is stops us from seeing just how amazing everyone is around us. Putting out the vibe that you are better than everyone else just keeps you separate.

After several years of living in the rural countryside I was lonely, which was my own fault for putting up so many barriers. You can’t keep pushing people around you away and have friends too. So, I made the decision to just like people where they were. Not to judge where they came from, how they chose to live their lives, what their belief system or politics were. All of that was just superficial to who they were in their hearts.

It was a big leap to let all of that go, but it was critical to living my life authentically and to not being lonely.

So, just like that, I let it go. I allowed people to be where they were in life and let them into mine. Sure, we are different people with different ideas about what are right, cool and good; but somewhere in there we find something we agree on and meet there.

That decision, to just love people and stop judging them, created a diverse community of folks that I can call on to do all kinds of things. There is never a reason for me to be lonely because there is always someone out there who just might be interested in doing something I want to do or I can join them on their adventures.

Last summer I returned home to the West Coast for a conference filled with people who haven’t made that leap. People who haven’t decided to jump in and see what people who aren’t like them at all can bring to the party; it was eye opening. I would have never thought our leap into the middle of nowhere would have landed us into the richest part of our lives. Being able to see everyone for their value and worth is a gift that everyone can have; you just have to leap into love.

Do Good. Be Great.


I love this word art from Creations by StarrC on Etsy. Fun!



True Words: A Round Up of What I Found to be True This Week

True Tattoo As part of my year I am exploring what is True to me as my One Little Word. This is some of the good stuff that I found this week that I want to share with you. I’ve been down with allergies this week – like in the bed, coughing and sneezing, down – and so my True has been about self-care and goodness.

Live Simply

I remember rushing everywhere when my daughter was little. We rushed to school. We rushed to church. We rushed to the grocery store. We rushed home. All that rushing made her very unhappy and consequently made me very frustrated. Why did we spend so many years rushing when our daughters and my normal pace is meandering? Here are good tips from Leo at ZenHabits on how to stop rushing.


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