February 2, 2021
Cindy Shermeyer, Executive Director, 302.658.5624 / email@example.com
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Introducing Literacy Delaware
With renewed energy, board growth and a dynamic strategic plan, Literacy Delaware is firing all cylinders to combat Delaware’s literacy issues. A vision of “Empowering all Delawareans through Literacy”, is an audacious goal, but tackling Delaware’s literacy challenges takes grit and determination. The support of the Welfare Foundation was paramount in enabling the organization to focus on creating a strategic plan, redefining its mission and implementing the plan.
“Adult literacy is still our area of focus.”, says Executive Director Cindy Shermeyer. “What has changed for us is that we have a strategic plan driving our work forward.”
Literacy Delaware’s founding roots began in 1983 as Literacy Volunteers of America/Wilmington Library Affiliate. Establishing a non- profit status in 2001, the organization rebranded to Literacy Volunteers Serving Adults (LVSA). After expanding to Kent and Sussex counties in 2015, it once again rebranded to Literacy Delaware, a better representation of its statewide work.
The new strategic plan is forward thinking in the organization’s sustainability, visibility and synergies to leverage community partnerships to reach more adults and families in the state. Literacy is a factor in almost every social challenge we face - poverty, social justice, healthcare. We are so very grateful to the Welfare Foundation for believing in us and also PMG Strategies for guiding these next big steps in our future, adds Shermeyer.
Literacy Delaware advances literacy through training, tutoring, English language acquisition and advocacy for all Delawareans.
Commentary: Pandemic brings home interconnectedness of reading, digital literacy
Jan 21st, 2021
By Cynthia E. Shermeyer
If the COVID-19 pandemic has proven anything, it’s that we can’t adequately combat the literacy crisis in America without addressing digital literacy.
Literacy is defined by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) as “the ability to read, write, and speak in English, and compute and solve problems at levels of proficiency necessary to function on the job and in society, achieve one’s goals, and develop one’s knowledge and potential.” UNESCO takes it further by positing that “literacy is now understood as a means of identification, understanding, interpretation, creation and communication in an increasingly digital, text-mediated, information-rich and fast-changing world.”
When Delaware schools had to hastily shift to online learning, educational inequities were exposed that could not be ignored. Research demonstrated that online learning caused students of color, English-language learners and special-needs students to fall between the cracks disproportionately and even further behind in our schools. Many of these students had limited access to technology. Many parents of these students did not possess adequate digital literacy skills themselves, let alone basic literacy skills needed to help their struggling children.
As Literacy Delaware also pivoted to remote instruction for our adult learners last spring, we encountered similar disparities in access to technology. One in 5 homes throughout our state does not have internet access at home. Many of our learners and tutors faced challenges to continuing instruction. As one of our adult learners told his tutor, “I finally have a tutor, but now I have to stop (instruction) because I don’t have or know how to use a computer or smartphone.”
It’s not just a lack of access to technology. Research by the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIACC) found that 16% of adults (32 million) in the U.S. are not digitally literate, meaning they do not have the competence or comfort using a computer to seek important information, find a recipe or make an online purchase, nor to assist their children with online learning.
As education continues online, traditional literacy and digital literacy merge as a conjoined problem urgently needing a solution. If you can’t read above a middle-school level or do simple math, you’re lost on the internet. If a child can’t learn effectively online, he or she will fall even further behind their peers in math and reading skills. Parents are integral to a child’s success in school. Children of parents with low literacy skills have a 72% chance of being at the lowest reading levels themselves.
Every Delawarean should have equitable access to technology and broadband in their home. Policymakers, educators and community and local business leaders can help pursue this objective by investing in improving basic literacy/digital literacy for children and their parents. We need a cultural shift, promoted by smart policies, to get everyone — educators, parents, businesses, broadband providers and community groups — on board with recognizing and addressing the literacy crisis, which includes the digital literacy gap we face. Organizations like Literacy Delaware play a key role in promoting digital literacy skills to adults in need throughout the state and need adequate funding to provide these much-needed services.
Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the greatest weapon we have to change the world.” At our nation’s founding, Delaware was the first state to ratify the Constitution. Delaware can also become the first state to achieve the 21st-century goal of universal digital literacy and broadband adoption in the fight against low literacy, using the power of education to open minds and change lives.
Cynthia E. Shermeyer is executive director of Literacy Delaware, which celebrates 38 years of empowering adults through literacy. New tutor training for virtual tutoring begins Feb. 4. For more information or to sign up please go to or email firstname.lastname@example.org.