Adult literacy may not be 'trendy' but deserves support

Opinion

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Congratulations on a wonderful article about First Tuesday ("Not your ordinary 'women's group,'" Dec. 8). I have to offer one correction.

In Ken Trainor's section "Taking the Lead," he identified me as the Director of Literacy Volunteers of Western Cook County. Actually, I was the director of the statewide Literacy Volunteers of America-Illinois from 1984 through 1991. We served over a hundred programs throughout the state with training and professional development. Because the statewide office was located in Oak Park, (first on Ridgeland and Lake and then on Harrison, just east of Ridgeland), attention and interest for a local affiliate began to grow. 

The organization that still operates as LVA-WCC grew out of our office and in no time was serving over 200 tutoring partnerships. We placed the first local coordinator, thanks to a significant VISTA grant that we had received from the federal ACTION agency. The initial success was also due in no small measure to the generous support of Barbara Ballinger of the Oak Park Library and Barbara Hall of the River Forest Library. Our organization was also instrumental in bringing the first public funding to non-profit, community-based literacy providers in Illinois. We worked directly with the late Senator Paul Simon to rewrite the federal adult education act to close the loopholes that enabled Illinois, one of only four such states, to exclude public libraries, the human service sector and so many other legitimate groups from access to funding. 

Our agency was one of only three, upstate, to have our first check delivered personally by then Secretary of State (also State Librarian) Jim Edgar. Sadly, much of those funds have since dried up. 

Adult literacy is no longer the trendy issue it was during the eighties and early nineties. Legislators, funders and business people were not satisfied with progress (it wasn't overnight) and so their very limited attention span was directed elsewhere. Now would be an excellent time for anyone with a giving spirit to contribute to the local Literacy Volunteers affiliate. There is no more important work than theirs. 

RaeLynne Toperoff
Oak Park

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