ACE Provider Number: IP-19-2604

Join Our Global Literacy Action Circle

Join Our Global Literacy Action Circle

Join Our Global Literacy Action Circle

By: Abby Twyman   |   July 13, 2021

Over the past year and a half we have been on a journey to create peace through collective action. We began with continuing education courses to support behavioral scientists wanting to take action in their own lives, explored possibilities through our Tipsy Unicorn podcast in partnership with Beautiful Humans and Radical Action Circles, and are now calling our community to action as we enter into a partnership with Tony Biglan of Values to Action and Michael Maloney of The Maloney Method. 

We have an opportunity to take collective action to address the Global Literacy Crisis, and we need all hands on deck! Will you commit to taking action in the service of our shared values? Before you answer, consider the following...

Do you know a child who is struggling to learn to read?

Do you know a teenager who continues to struggle with learning and is at risk of dropping out of school or has already done so?

Do you know an adult who barely graduated school or dropped out and is struggling to thrive and maintain a healthy lifestyle?

You're not alone, and we hope you'll join us in addressing this challenge!!

The Scope and Depth of the Challenge Ahead

According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), when looking at literacy worldwide “at least 773 million youth and adults still cannot read and write and 250 million children are failing to acquire basic literacy skills” [1]. In the United States, 43 million adults (1 out of every 5)  are functionally illiterate [2], and 66% of 8th-graders are below proficient in reading [3]. These data should make us all concerned for the future because we know there is a direct correlation between those children who are struggling to read by 3rd-grade and those adults who are failing to thrive [4]. 

After reading the book “Blind Spots: Why Students Fail and the Science That Can Save Them” [5] in which the author Dr. Kimberly Berens, a renowned scientist-educator and Founder of FIT Learning, highlighted the chronic, systemic issues within our educational system, I began to look at what was happening around me. What I found confirmed my fears and also strengthened my resolve to ensure people understand not only the scope and depth of the problem but also the profound empowerment that comes from seeing the data for what it is… information with which to make decisions.

I discovered that across the four school districts here on Prince of Wales Island* where I live, 61% of students tested were not proficient in reading and 74% were not proficient in math [6]. Even more concerning to me was that when I reflected upon what I had seen and heard happening over the past four years I’ve lived here, it became clear something was missing. It was apparent to me there is a disconnect somewhere because while I've observed teachers all over the island consistently work their tails off coming in early, staying late, and working over the weekends to plan and prepare for daily instruction, this didn't seem to be translating into the desired outcomes expected of them by their communities. 

This observation prompted me to begin digging a little deeper. In Dr. Berens’ book, she talked about Project Follow Through which I read more about on the National Institute for Direct Instruction website [7]. The purpose of Project Follow Through, which was a large educational study that began in 1967, was to “find ways to break the cycle of poverty through improved education” [8; pg 4]. The study showed, without a shadow of a doubt, that curricula founded in Direct Instruction were far more effective than any other approach and demonstrated positive impacts in basic academic skills, cognitive skills, and affective skills [9]. These results, however, were not widely disseminated and have not significantly impacted education practices, due to challenges around sustainable systems change** and perceived resistance to implementation of Direct Instruction curriculum [10].

Empowering Our Community to Take Action

We are partnering with Michael Maloney, developer of Teach Your Child to Read Well [11], and Tony Biglan, author of The Nurture Effect and Rebooting Capitalism [12], to engage the community in developing, implementing, and evaluating a refined approach to this challenge beginning with training those at-risk teens and struggling adults I asked you to think about earlier. 

By teaching them to become Direct Instruction literacy coaches who serve kids in their communities in volunteer or paid positions, we aim to help them find their paths forward to a brighter future while also effectively preventing the younger generation from becoming another statistic because they were allowed to fall through the ever-widening cracks. Training at-risk youth and adults will not only create conduits for effective supplemental instruction [13] for children in the community, it will simultaneously improve the coach's own reading skills - a refinement that will surely pay dividends as early as their next school assessment, job interview, or college application.

How You Can Get Involved in this Effort

You can support our initiative to develop a network of Direct Instruction literacy coaches worldwide by getting trained yourself and sharing information about our program with your friends, families, and communities. Our goal is to grow our network to include 25 literacy coaches by August 2022.

Additionally, you can support us by taking an active role in our fundraising efforts. Our goal is to raise $150,000 to train 25 coaches and serve 75 learners in the coming year. 

  • For every $750, we will be able to provide initial training to one literacy coach who has the potential of serving 3-15 children per year utilizing a digital version of the Direct Instruction reading curriculum developed by Michael Maloney. This will provide training materials and 10-weeks of individualized coaching. 
  • For every $1000, we will be able to purchase the digital Direct Instruction curriculum for 25 children. This structured reading program is simple to implement, effectively teaches reading skills, and supports the development of high-quality literacy coaches. 
  • For every $1500, we will be able to provide more intensive training to one literacy coach so they are able to provide more advanced instruction beyond the digital program. This will provide training materials and 20-weeks of individualized coaching and support. 
  • And for every $3000, we will be able to provide 120 hours of literacy coaching to children in need either one-on-one or in small groups.

We will be actively engaged in organization and implementation beginning July 30th and continuing through November 19th for our Action Circles focused on the planning and implementation of this campaign to address the global literacy crisis. This will carry us through the first iteration of this endeavor focusing on piloting this approach on Prince of Wales Island*, and we are hopeful that everyone who gets involved will be empowered to engage in similar work in their own communities of influence and practice. We believe that together anything is possible!

  • Join us on Mondays at 5:00 PM for an action circle focused on organization: Click Here to Register
  • Join us on Fridays at 9:00 AM for an action circle focused on implementation: Click Here to Register
  • Share our work with your family, friends, and colleagues and tag #OurAO
  • Support our work with a financial contribution: Our Go Fund Me

If you are unable to join us live on Mondays or Fridays due to the time or other reasons (e.g., discomfort with group meeting formats), please still consider registering so you can receive updates and future calls to action. Additionally, you can set up a time to get together on an individual basis so you can find a way to participate that is a good contextual fit for your individual circumstances! Click here to schedule an individual meeting with Abby Twyman.

Reference List



*We acknowledge the work we're doing is being done in Lingít Aaní the traditional homelands of the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian people who have stewarded this land for millennia. We are forever grateful to the ancestors of this land and our intention is to always act in the service of ensuring cultural perpetuity for benefit and betterment of all our future ancestors.

**We acknowledge the cause of many chronic systemic issues in this world are rooted in our shared history of colonialism, racism, sexism and ableism. We are committed to always acting in the service of our shared commitment to dismantle systems of oppression which serves as the foundation of our work.

For more information on land acknowledgements and the people who have influenced our vision, mission and values please check out the following:

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