A Memory

jennwigginton (2)I wrote the first week about what I’m thankful for in my personal life and my life here at The Literacy Center; this morning I was reading an article and it hit me, I’m thankful for being able to read.  I don’t remember the moment I began to read or the moment I knew what reading was all about and I’m thankful for that.  I’m thankful because I think it means that it wasn’t a difficult process for me.  I think this because I listen to the stories our students tell me and I hear phrases like…

I struggled,

I didn’t get it,

It was hard,

I remember others picking on me.

I wish that I could change the memories of our student’s from that time of struggling to learn to read but I know I can’t.  But, I can help them make new memories of overcoming the reading difficulties.  I correct that, we can.  If you are thankful you can read then help our students make new memories of learning to read and help them discover the joy and pleasure it brings to life.  There are many ways to do this… Volunteer, Give and Share.  The volunteer application is here.  To give click here. The share button is in your heart and I know you know what to do with it.

Thankful for Our Students

Courtney Keating, Education Coordinator

Courtney Keating, Education Coordinator

We are coming upon the time of year to reflect on things for which we are thankful. One thing that I am extremely grateful for is our students; something that I don’t express often enough.

Many times our students express to us that they are thankful that we are here. Yet we don’t tell our students thanks nearly enough. There are many, many reasons why I’m thankful for our students, but perhaps the overwhelming reason is that they teach me so much.

Yes, you read that correctly. Our students teach us. Sometimes, it is intentional, and other times they have no idea that they are teaching me!

Allow me to introduce you to a few students who have taught me:

We have a student, “Mark,” who has a goal of being a personal trainer. In our lessons we work on lots of vocabulary and study for the AFTA certification tests. I’m lucky that my sister is a personal trainer, so I have a great reference to help me with lessons. Before working with “Mark,” my knowledge about personal training was average. Now I think I may be able to identify quite a few muscle groups and how particular food additives affect our bodies. This is something I probably would not have bothered to learn about if it were not for “Mark.” Because of his interests and goals, I now can make better decisions regarding my personal health. So, “Mark,” I am thankful for you.

Another young student of ours, “Melanie,” is also a student at Ivy Tech. “Melanie” will bring in her homework and ask for help. In order for me to help her critique an article, I must read that article. The articles “Melanie” chooses range in topics, and I can say that I probably would never voluntarily read any of the articles she has brought me, yet I am always intrigued by them once I get involved. While helping her understand what the article is saying, we end up asking more questions about the topic. Together, we turn to the internet to find our answers. “Melanie,” thank you for helping me broaden my horizons.

Although I only mentioned two students by their (alias) name, there isn’t a single student at The Literacy Center that I am not thankful for. Sometimes I am thankful for what they taught me in that lesson. Sometimes I am thankful that they trust me enough to help them do one of the most difficult things in their lives. I am always thankful that our students are so brave to come to us for help. Additionally, I am very thankful that our students have taught me to appreciate the little achievements in my own life.


November is a great month to be thankful. Here’s the definition from a Google search:

I’m thankful for many things in my personal life:  my husband, my daughter, son-in-law, granddaughter, my sisters, my nieces and nephews, my aunts, my uncles and cousins, my friends, my home, my dogs, living in the USA, not going hungry, my health and my job. (Just to name a few.)

My job, I’m especially thankful for because I get to help people and I also get to work with a fantastic group of volunteers.  The Literacy Center owes gratitude to our volunteers and supporters because…

They step up and into positions that help us grow and be a better organization.

They utilize their past experiences to assist us to learn.

They use their personal connections, professional connections to ask for support and to help us build relationships.

They donate time and energy to prepare lessons, to instruct, to submit monthly reports and to travel to instruction locations.

They help our students reach towards their individual goals.

They donate time and energy educating our volunteers tutors.

They donate time assessing our students.

They donate time and energy working in our computer lab.

They assist us with office work, write blogs and newsletter articles.

They help with editing our writing.

They write grants and appeal letters.

They spend an afternoon playing SCRABBLE for us.

They spend a day crafting and scrapbooking for us.

They get up in front of others and Spell.

They buy steak for us.

They make purchases for us at Barnes & Noble.

They buy a gift for someone they care for at the Mission Mall.

They make purchases on Amazon Smile to benefit our program.

They donate time and energy to assist with planning events, attending organizational meetings, to market us, to acquire financial backing, and to learn about our history.

They manage our finances with the care and consideration as if it they earned every penny.

They assist us to plan and organize our policies, procedures and our future.

They donate money, office supplies, teaching materials, books and things that make our job easier.

They learn about us and do what they can to help us be better.

They are patient and kind with each and every client/student that they come in contact with.


I’m pleased and relieved that the Literacy Center has been successful this year; we credit our volunteers, supporters and our students.  It’s not enough to show gratitude or to thank this group for doing what they do, but it is a start.  Thank you! We appreciate everything you do.

We will continue showing our gratitude by being an organization that our volunteers, supporters and clients trust and respect.  We will always be honest, right wrongs, be loyal, deliver results, continuously improve, clarify expectations, listen first, keep commitments and extend trust.

The people that are involved with The Literacy Center leave footprints on my heart and I’ll never be the same.  Thank you for that.


jennwigginton (2)Jenn Wigginton

Executive Director

Mind in the Making- Skill 7

jennwigginton (2)The Mind in the Making blog continues with the seventh life skill, Self-Directed engaged learning.  This is how our program works.

To understand skill 7, Self-Directed Engaged Learning you must understand that it “calls on Executive Functions of the brain including not going on automatic, but reflecting about the experience or situation, setting goals and working toward them and being flexible in thinking about how to learn something in a new way….”    The Literacy Center strives to achieve the understanding of this skill and intertwine it within our program.   We strive to maintain a trustworthy relationship with our clients and volunteers, help clients set and work towards self-identified goals, teach them to be accountable, elaborate and extend their learning and create a community of learners.  If I had to pick one that was most difficult it would be the latter.  It is a hard first step to ask for help to improve your reading and comprehension skills but it is equally as hard to take each and every step after.  Maintaining the dedication and commitment to being a learner each and every day is something we all can have difficulty with.  We are not perfect, never will be, we can always make improvement in ourselves and in the things we do.  I fully believe that everyone has the ability to learn something from everyone and that is how each of the seven essential life skills comes into play.

Would you like to join our community of learners?  Will you accept the challenge to embrace learning each and every day?  When you are ready, contact me. I’m Jennifer Wigginton and I’m a life-long learner.

Stay tuned next week as we wrap up the Mind in the Making series of blogs.

Mind in the Making: Skills 5 & 6

Courtney Keating, Education Coordinator

Courtney Keating, Education Coordinator

We’re continuing outlining the 7 essential life skills in our blog. This week, I will focus on skills 5 and 6, which happen to be two of my favorites!

Skill 5 – Critical Thinking:  For those of you who know me, you know I’m big on critical thinking. I have dedicated an entire workshop on activities to promote critical thinking! Critical thinkers are better able to process information. What does that mean? Well, if you can think critically, you are able to make better decisions, and be a bit less naïve. In an age where we have endless amounts of information available to us 24/7, it’s important for us to be able to sift through that information and come to a logical conclusion. Critical thinking allows us to use reason and logic to form our opinions, beliefs, and draw conclusions based upon our prior knowledge (which directly builds upon making connections!). This skill is paramount for functioning as an adult, and teaching it is really fun! Get in touch with me, and I’ll send you some fun games to play to boost critical thinking.

Skill 6 – Taking on Challenges: When was the last time you had to try at something? Like really, really try? I witnessed my daughter, a girl who was afraid of grass the previous year, recently master this skill. My daughter is four, and she really wanted to learn to ride a horse. So, my husband and I got her cute riding pants, boots, and a half hour at a barn on an adorable pony named Buddy. She was so excited; she could barely sleep the night before.  When we got to the barn, she helped brush Buddy and clean his shoes. Then, it came time to get on him. She climbed a little ladder and just stood there shaking her head. She was frozen with fear. She was not getting on that pony. After some soothing words from her trainer, ten minutes, deep breathing exercises, and reassurances from me, she let me lift her onto Buddy’s back. It didn’t take long for her to get incredibly comfortable, and she shooed me away so she could focus on her lesson. Fast forward a couple of lessons, and she’s already trotting! At any point, she could have given up and not have gotten on that pony. But, she didn’t. That single action of her getting on Buddy helped her realize that she can do so many things if she just tries. She tackled that challenge and now has an activity that is building her confidence to continue to try other things that will help her grow to be independent.

If you’ve been following the blog this month, you might be saying, “Yes, I know these things are important.” Of course you know! However, Mind in the Making isn’t about teaching you new information. It’s about helping you take the information you always thought to be correct, proving it with scientific research, and then working through how to help instill these skills in yourself and the people you are around. Mind in the Making isn’t just a teaching method; it’s a way of life. Let’s embrace it.

Mind in the Making: Skills 3 & 4

Courtney Keating, Education Coordinator

Courtney Keating, Education Coordinator

Last week, I wrote about how Mind in the Making applies to everyone, regardless of their age. I briefly outlined the first two skills, focus and self-control, and perspective taking. This week, I’ll go into a bit more detail about skills three and four, communicating and making connections. Who knows, maybe I’ll be able to solve the world’s problems with Mind in the Making research!


Have you ever noticed that when you are reading the requirements for a job, they almost always say they are looking for a candidate with superior communication skills? Think about the millions of ways humans communicate with each other every day; speaking, writing, music, facial expressions, physical gestures, art, movies, text messages, and the list could go on for another 500 words. Is it any wonder that this is an essential skill? There are 7 billion people on this planet, and we all need to communicate with each other. Whether you are communicating for a job, to a friend, or just to express yourself, it’s a skill that we all need to improve upon. Exercising better communication, especially when built upon the previous skill of perspective taking, can take us far. It will not only help us land that awesome job, but we will be able to do it well. This means we can be more efficient, less stressed, which directly leads to being happier and having overall better health! Wait, did I just find a way to lessen your risk of a heart attack? Ok, probably not, but it is still pretty important.


Making Connections:

Read the description of communicating again. See what I did there? At the end, I linked better communication to better health. Everything is connected to something else. I’m not necessarily talking about the butterfly effect here, but connecting pieces of information can change outcomes. If a person is better able to make connections, they are better able to understand and process information. They will use the new information they are receiving and be able to relate it to information they already knew. Being able to categorize things, being organized in our thoughts and actions, thinking about things sequentially, and being able to use all of this information to understand what is being communicated to us are what making connections is about. It will help us make better decisions by making a connection between our actions and the consequences.


Are you noticing a theme here? Our weekly blog has outlined the first four of the Mind in the Making’s essential skills. Notice how they build on each other (or connect to each other!)? Come back next week when we discuss skills five and six!

Mind in the Making- A Second Look

Courtney Keating, Education Coordinator

Courtney Keating, Education Coordinator

When I first start to explain Mind in the Making, people will ask, “How does teaching kids the 7 life skills pertain to your job in adult education?” Well, it’s actually pretty simple.

The 7 essential life skills taught by Mind in the Making applies to everyone. Yes, the research supporting Mind in the Making involve children. However, anyone who interacts with any other human being needs all 7 of these skills mastered. Unfortunately, not all adults have these skills perfected.

When I first went through Mind in the Making training this past May, I saw so many opportunities to better myself. Last month, I had the pleasure of becoming a Mind in the Making facilitator. As I’m revisiting the research, I still found areas of my life in which I need improvement. I also thought about the millions of ways Mind in the Making can make the professional world a better place.

Think about how many different people you interact with on a daily basis. I’m not just talking about your family, co-workers, and friends. You interact with strangers; the barista, acquaintances on social media, other drivers on your commute, the customer service rep, and the guy changing your oil. Unless you are off the grid on a mountain, you are interacting with other people and (hopefully) exercising the 7 essential life skills (focus & self-control, perspective taking, communicating, making connections, critical thinking, taking on challenges, and self-directed, engaged learning). Utilizing the 7 skills will help you exercise executive functions needed to lead, not only a productive life, but be productive on a global scale.

As stated on the front flap of Ellen Galinsky’s book Mind in the Making, “These aren’t the kind of skills that children just pick up; these skills have to be fostered.” If any of these skills were not learned in childhood, then as adults, they will be lacking.

Here’s the really awesome thing about Mind in the Making; it’s never too late. No matter your age, you can work to better each and every one of these skills. Mind in the Making paves the road for each of us to do that. So, here’s more:

Skill 1: Focus & Self-Control

How hard is it to stay focused in today’s world? We have distractions every waking moment. I hear people complain that they don’t sleep well because they can’t put their mind to rest. Mastering how to stay focused and have self-control is difficult, but oh so important. As adults, we know we need to focus, but do you know how? No? Well, Mind in the Making can help with that!

Skill 2: Perspective Taking

How many times does drama occur? Whether it’s office drama, family drama, or Facebook drama, it is everywhere! Other than avoiding all people at all times, how do you keep your emotions in check? Seeing other people’s perspective is the key here. Having the skill to consider other’s point of view is of utmost importance in handling conflict, cultural literacy, and it is the foundation for utilizing reason and logic. So, if you have a “My way or the highway” attitude, Mind in the Making can help with that!

Stay tuned next week where we discuss more skills and how Mind in the Making is changing human interaction!

We interrupt this blog series…

jennwigginton (2)I’m interrupting this blog with an important announcement! The Literacy Center’s staff are Mind in the Making certified facilitators! This is collaboration with the Evansville-Vanderburgh School Corporation and their Mind in the Making Grant. Here is an excerpt from EVSC’s news release to explain: “Minds in the Making: The Science of Early Learning was developed by the Families and Work Institute. It is a collaborative effort to share the science of early learning with the professionals who work with children and families. Minds in the Making has documented the science of early learning with children from birth to eight years old and focuses on what makes young children stay motivated and engaged in learning, and determines what are the essential skills children need. This grant – which was also received in its first year by school districts in New York, Tulsa and Portland; and this year (2012) by Providence, RI, Hartford, Conn., and the EVSC —  is designed to help school districts further their early childhood goals.” 

The seven essential life skills are:

  1. Focus and Self Control
  2. Perspective Taking
  3. Communication
  4. Making Connections
  5. Critical Thinking
  6. Taking on Challenges
  7. Self-directed Engaged Learning

In the next month we will discuss the seven essential life skills and explain how we implement them in our adult program. It is going to be a learning and growing experience.  Stay tuned.

Then & Now

Curiosity brought me to The Literacy Center at Ivy Tech in early 1987. I was intrigued by an article in the Evansville Courier & Press requesting volunteers to tutor adults in basic reading skills or to help read a second language. Because I had tutored several young students in English while in college, I felt I had some experience to contribute. I knew tutoring was rewarding, so I immediately volunteered.

My work as the Volunteer Office Manager at the Literacy Center was terrific for me because I got back much more than I put in. Watching the pride on the faces of the student graduates was a joy; as was watching the volunteers take pride in their work; and the tutors take pride in their students.

Three decades later, I needed similar help reading due to a serious medical condition, which caused memory loss and communication problems. The Literacy Center appeared in yet another article in the Courier which piqued my interest again. This article told the story of a young adult starting to attend college who needed help with her reading skills. Well, again, I thought, “Aha —that’s for me!”

I was a lucky child. My parents raised my siblings and me to value our education. They read to us when we were very young and surrounded us with wonderful books, took us to the library, and played games with us through young adulthood. Reading became a life-long passion of mine. When I lost my memory and communication skills, it affected all aspects of my life. However, because I liked to read so much, I turned to fiction – political and legal thrillers, especially. I read the daily newspaper cover to cover. Then some time passed, and more and more I wanted to resume my education.

After years away from my university studies and a career in management, I wanted to better myself through more formal education. I wanted to read the literature and non-fiction books that require more advanced reading skills. First, I realized I needed to refresh my current reading skills and “unplug” blocked memory to improve comprehension of the written word.

Two major factors were holding me back: I was computer illiterate, and I was unable to afford any local school. The Literacy Center article stated that this facility “offers free reading instruction and tutoring for adults.” What a wonderful opportunity! And so, here I am. For the last nine months I have studied grammar, composition, and effective communication. My instructor teaches me one-on-one. I work in the computer lab at the Literacy Center and at the Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library.

I want to fully comprehend legal documents, such as insurance and hospital policies. These contracts are important as I become older. With my tutor, I even review street signs to improve my driving, because signs have changed significantly since I have moved residences several times and I have aged. I read aloud to my instructor so that I can become a better conversationalist and speaker. I have rediscovered the joy of writing: I want to become a better writer, just for the love of writing. I want to type on the computer to join the present and future technological world. I feel less out of touch with my family, friends, and the younger generation because I am improving my computer abilities as a result of the computer sessions at the Literacy Center.

Have I mentioned my age—67! I am a senior citizen with a young mind. While most of my peers are in retirement, I am going back to school—and I dearly love each day preparing for my class sessions. Don’t get me wrong: I still have to work to prepare my lessons properly. However, there is a real element of fun. I am always enthused by my instructor’s presentations, and the questions she poses. My homework is not easy, and every lesson is a challenge. For you see, I am on dialysis three times a week, for four hours each session. Learning means so much to me – it is a high priority for the life I have left.

Fortunately, a place like the Literacy Center exists for people who are less fortunate—who had no help at home with their schooling and are experiencing difficulty reading and writing – or like me, educated but older, and needing to refresh their reading skills. The Literacy Center is the one special facility making education possible for me. And perhaps, possible for someone you know. Even you!

Linda S. Kramer

Literacy is Heavy

Let’s be honest; literacy is a heavy word. If you asked 20 people around you what literacy is, I bet they would say the ability to read. However, literacy is so much more than that. I can’t really stress how much deeper literacy goes, but I suppose I’ll try.

On the surface, literacy is the ability to read. To be literate, you must recognize symbols as letters, associate those symbols with a sound and combine the sounds together to form a word that we understand. And our brains do that in milliseconds!

As I stated, that’s just the surface. Literacy is the ability to process, and master, information. How health literate are you? Many health professionals would say the general public isn’t very health literate. We must be able to ingest fitness/nutritional/physical health information, understand what it means, and utilize that information in our lives.

What about financial literacy? I had a friend (who is in possession of multiple college degrees) vent on Facebook about knowing nothing about complicated mortgages, loans, and investments. I consider this friend of mine to have multiple intelligences, but financial literacy isn’t one of them. She needed help figuring out her 401k.

Additionally, there is tech literacy (basic operations of technology), and cultural literacy (understanding and respecting other cultures). See? Literacy is much deeper than you having the ability to read this blog.

Courtney Keating, Education Coordinator

Courtney Keating, Education Coordinator

In the office, there is a lot of talk about the stigma of illiteracy. I’ve heard, first hand, many people say, “Gggrrrrrr! Can’t that idiot read??” It saddens me, because there is a pretty decent chance that they can’t. That phrase also infuriates me because of the negative association with stupidity and illiteracy. When my friend reached out on Facebook about the confusing language of her 401k, no one made fun of her. No one said, “Seriously??! You don’t know what a Roth IRA is?” This was a skill she needed help. Just as our students need improvement in a skill. Today, I’d like you to think about a skill you aren’t a master. Now, answer the question, “Am I dumb because I don’t know this?” The answer is no. The answer is always no.