National Adult Education & Family Literacy Week

jennwiggjuly2015It is National Adult Education and Family Literacy Week!  What does this make me think?  I think of the 7 Essential Life Skills by the Mind in the Making. Why?

The seven essential life skills are:

  1. Focus & Self Control
  2. Perspective Taking
  3. Communicating
  4. Making Connections
  5. Critical Thinking
  6. Taking on Challenges
  7. Self-Directed Engaged Learning

These skills are the foundation of education and literacy.  If we don’t have these skills we are unable to be educated.  That may sound harsh, but in my opinion these skills are so intertwined with how we learn it is impossible to separate.

A quick review of the skills:

Focus & Self Control– we need this skill in order to achieve their goals, especially in a world that is filled with distractions and information overload.  It involves paying attention, remembering the rules, thinking flexibly and exercising self-control.

Perspective Taking is seeing things as others would see them.  It goes far beyond empathy; it involves figuring out what others think and feel, and forms the basis for our understanding of the people in our lives- parents, friends, co-workers intentions.  When we have the ability to take others’ perspectives we are much less likely to get involved in conflicts.

Communicating is more than understanding language, speaking, reading and writing- it is the skill of determining what we want to communicate and realizing how our communications will be understood by others.  We communicate in many ways besides language, including music, dance, and the visual arts.

Making Connections is the heart of learning- figuring out what’s the same and what’s different and sorting these things into categories. Making unusual connections is central to creativity.

Critical Thinking is the ongoing search for valid and reliable knowledge to guide beliefs, decisions and actions.

Taking on Challenges is more than learning how to cope with stress.  It means you think about experiences and events that may cause stress and work to deal with them positively.  Beyond that Taking on Challenges means that you learn how to deal PROACTIVELY with challenges trying something that is hard, learning from mistakes and not giving up. Figuratively it means getting back on a bike after you have fallen off and trying again.

It is through self-directed learning that we take responsibility and initiative for seeking knowledge and skills: and through engaged learning that we keep a passion for learning in our own lives.  Thus, it is through Self Directed Engaged Learning that we realize our potential.  As the world changes, so can we, for as long as we live – as long as we learn.


The most important thing to me is that we recognize that we never stop learning these skills or academic knowledge.  Being a lifelong learner is the most important thing and I believe that is what the National Adult Education and Family Literacy week is all about.

Celebrate by learning and a donation in honor of Day of Giving and the week would be nice also.


Note:  Past Blogs on the 7 Essential Life Skills:

We interrupt this blog series

Mind in the Making- A Second Look

Mind in the Making: Skills 3 & 4 

Mind in the Making: Skills 5 & 6 

Mind in the Making- Skill 7 

PIAAC Report is out

Skills to Pay the BillsThe Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) has released its most recent survey. The results are astounding. The report is a bit difficult to read (just the U.S. summary is 108 pages!). If you’d like to read the summary, you may find it here.

If you don’t feel like a bit of light reading, let me give you some key points. Warning: these findings are very sobering.

It is more common in the US for adults to have low skills than other countries surveyed (p 13). Think about this. More common to have low skills. How will America compete on a global scale if our citizens struggle with basic skills? Furthermore, Americans are one group that has more formal education than the other nations (p 13). Essentially, despite US adults achieving a higher level of education compared to other nations, Americans are unable to compete with the basic skills of those in other nations with less education (p 29).

Another point that the PIAAC survey tells us is that “socio-economic background has a stronger influence on adult basic skills in the U.S. than in other countries” (p 13).   One can make a direct connection with poverty in the U.S. and lower literacy, numeracy, and life skills.

Overall, the report states that America has more people with weak skills and few people with strong skills than other countries (p 22). This makes low literacy more common in the United States than in most other countries that were surveyed.

Additionally, 5% of surveyed adults in the United States required paper testing opposed to the electronic testing because they did not possess the computer skills needed. This fact is related to Americans’ poor scores on problem solving in technology rich environments (p 23).

And where does Indiana rank? Indiana has 371,481 adults that lack basic literacy skills, and throughout the state there are only 41,397 adults enrolled in a state-administered adult education program (p 103). Allow me to do the math for you. That means that in Indiana 330,084 adults are not getting help they need to live a happy, healthy life. 330,084 adults. This is the combined population of Evansville, Bloomington, Terre Haute, Vincennes, Tell City, Jasper, all of Posey County, and a kindergarten class.

The Literacy Center has been battling these numbers for decades. I challenge you to help us. Help us make 330,084 adults lives better. Help us make our community better. Help us make our country better. Email me at to help The Literacy Center.

Back to School: It isn’t just for kids

july23blog picOh, the end of July. Until this year, it only meant that we were getting closer to my favorite season, fall. But this year is different. My daughter is starting kindergarten this year. I’m a little distraught, because am I really old enough to have a kid in school? I digress; sorry.

With Elliott starting school in less than 3 weeks (eek!), I can’t help but to think about education. Well, actually, I think about education all the time, because, it’s kind of what I do. But this year is different. This year it’s occupying nearly every waking moment.

As Elliott was being incredibly indecisive about her backpack decision in the store last week, I started gazing around at the other parents. I wondered what their fears were about sending their children to school. Were they worried their child would be made fun of? Were they concerned that their child wouldn’t be able to keep up? Or were they worried that their child would bring home homework, need help, and discover that their parents couldn’t read well enough to help them?

Unfortunately, this last fear is very real in many parents’ lives. And it breaks my heart.

If I had gotten my letter to Hogwarts and could successfully perform magic, like Harry Potter, I would make this fear go away. I would make the stigma of being a low-level reader go away – make people realize that an adult that doesn’t read well isn’t stupid. I would also wave my wand over the world and repeat the easy reading spell, readimintum, so everyone would have no trouble reading whatever their hearts’ desire.

But that is a fantasy. I never got my letter. I never had a wand choose me at Ollivander’s. I’m just a (young-ish) mom that is lucky enough to get to work with some of the hardest working and most determined group of learners that are in Southwest Indiana. But there are so many more that need our help that aren’t getting it.

If you work with the public, or are simply just observant of people around you while in public, odds are you will encounter at least one person a day who is a struggling reader. Would you be able to recognize their struggle? They may say that they forgot their glasses and ask you to read something to them. They may ask clarifying questions, even when the answer is in print in front of them. They may hand any written materials to someone else to read or view.

The sad truth is that finding adults that don’t read well is easier than them finding us. Many struggling readers don’t know we exist. Many may not know there is a safe, free place they can go for help.  We have numerous students who are here because someone else told them. With the Back to School season upon us, now is a perfect time to come to The Literacy Center.

Courtney Keating, Education Coordinator

Darrell Reads!


Four years ago I couldn’t read, write, or spell, but The Literacy Center opened my eyes to a brand new world. Who would have known that you could travel the world through books?

Inside the cover of a book, you can find drama, pain, laughter, love, and mystery. By reading, you can leave your recliner and visit the world. I have been so blessed to be able to read The Diary of Anne Frank, Edgar Allan Poe, Hot Dogs and Hamburgers, Dr. Jekyll and Mister Hyde, and so many more.

Looking back I couldn’t even read a Dr. Seuss book. All I could spell was cat, dog, up, and my name. The Literacy Center has given me so much; I am the same man, but with knowledge. I found out with knowledge anything is possible.

For those people that still can’t read or write, have faith in yourselves. Turn to the Literacy Center, they can help. I am a testament of that. They are great people, and they do care. It’s a little scary at first but so worth it.

To those people who can read, turn off your TV’s for one hour and travel the world with a book. READ FOR LIFE is not just a slogan, it is my way of life. Because when I quit trying to better myself it is the time I no longer exist.

So better yourself and pick up a book!


IMG_0052 (2)Darrell Murray



Editor’s Note: Come hear Darrell’s story 6/25/15 at 3:00 pm at The Literacy Center.