For the last several weeks I have been reading about Paulo Freire and his educational philosophy. I have already mentioned that I envy his passion and dedication to the cause of adult literacy, and how that I hope that I can find that kind of passion and conviction when I am released into the wild to make the world a better place. It is no secret that I want to start a literacy program and help increase literacy rates all over the world. The idea of being able to travel and help people is very appealing to me. One of my favorite people already suggested a name for the foundation, The Wide Wild World, and another friend of mine told me she would help fund the project. Both told me that all they ask in return is pictures of them displayed in all of the offices. To them I say….done and done.
To help jump start my foray into the world of literacy, I have decided to take on a pet project. Last week I was lucky enough to receive a scholarship from the college of education. The scholarship was presented to me by the cutest old man. He was also there to present a scholarship in memory of a dear friend of his. She was an elementary school teacher, and to help her students learn to read, she used to bring her dog to class and let the students read to him. The puppy in the classroom was so successful that public libraries all over the country have adopted as a fun story time for children. They get to pick a book, and have between 15-20 minutes to read to a therapy dog.
The success of the program hinges on the fact that the dogs are patient and loving, and will listen to the children read the stories. A dog doesn’t care if they mess up a word, or it takes them awhile to get through a story. The kids are excited because they get to read to a dog, and they can relax knowing that they can practice their reading without being judged or criticized.
I had never heard of such a program, but it turns out there are a couple of libraries near where I live that offer the chance to read to puppies. It also happens that the library in the city where I live does not have such a program, but does have a high illiteracy rate among children and adults. With a little research, and some fancy words to the crazy librarian, I am going to see about starting a program of my own. I am hoping that I can get the librarians at the libraries that have the programs will be willing to sit down with me and discuss their programs and how they make it work.
I want to take the program one step further though and offer the chance for parents and adults to come and work on their literacy. I had the pleasure of working for a program called Read Orange County when I was in high school, and they offered these combo classes as a way to help adults learn English. I worked with the kids, but the ROC staff worked with the adults on basic English skills and then helped them do things like fill out job applications, register to vote, and even do their taxes.
The tactic that they used, and the ways in which they taught people basic literacy skills are very much the same as the ones employed by Freire when he was working with peasants in Brazil in the late 50s and early 60s. He made learning relevant to them, and was able to teach 300 people to read and write in 45 days. That project became the basis for his philosophy and for the work that he did until the day he died. The methods worked, and I am hoping that I can replicate the success and help out a few people in a city that has been very very good to me.
Eventually I am going to try and start these programs all over the world, because after all, who doesn’t love books and puppies?
Anyone who invests in you will never lose. I haven’t. I know you will be successful at “spreading the word.”