What is International Literacy Day?

International Literacy Day.png

This year marks the 50th anniversary of International Literacy Day and Literacy KC is so excited to celebrate this day with the rest of the world. International Literacy Day 2016 celebrates and honors the past five decades of national and international engagement, efforts and progress made to increase literacy rates around the world. It also addresses current challenges and looks to innovative solutions to further boost literacy in the future.

In 1966, UNESCO officially proclaimed September 8th International Literacy Day to actively mobilize the international community and to promote literacy as an instrument to empower individuals, communities and societies.

Now International Literacy Day is celebrated worldwide, bringing together governments, multi- and bilateral organizations, NGOs, private sectors, communities, teachers, learners and experts in the field. This year the focus is on innovation.

According to UNESCO, over 757 million adults worldwide still lack basic reading and writing skills. Of the 757 million low-literate adults, over two thirds of them are women. While literacy rates have steadily increased over the past 50 years, these statistics help to show that there is still work to be done. Below are two graphs that compare youth literacy statistics from 1985 and 2015, showing a visible increase in literacy rates throughout the 20 year span.


“The world has changed since 1966 – but our determination to provide every woman and man with the skills, capacities and opportunities to become everything they wish, in dignity and respect, remains as firm as ever. Literacy is a foundation to build a more sustainable future for all”  

-UNESCO Director General

While Literacy KC focuses its resources on the Kansas City community, where there are an estimated 225,000 low-literate adults, adults all over the country and the world continue require assistance to improve their literacy skills. Literacy KC is proud to be a welcoming and safe community resource for Kansas City area adults to improve their reading, writing, math and digital skills. We are excited to continue to deliver an innovative, research-based classroom model of instruction as we strive to create a future where there is literacy for all.

From all of us at Literacy KC, we wish you a Happy International Literacy Day!

Are you looking for a way to help celebrate National Literacy Month with Literacy KC? Here are some ways that you can make a difference with us:

  • Get tickets for our annual Literacy For All Luncheon on Friday, September 16th! This event will give you the chance to hear from our guest speakers Jeffri Chadiha, a senior columnist for NFL.com and the NFL Network, and Tom Bloch, former H&R Block CEO and Co-Founder of University Academy. This fundraiser that helps to support Literacy KC and is a great way to connect with other literacy advocates in the community!
  • Become a volunteer with us! Email kbrown@literacykc.org or call (816) 333-9332 for more information.
  • Make a financial commitment to support Literacy KC  as we continue to be an accessible resource for adults that require literacy assistance in the Kansas City Community.





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5 Ways To Celebrate National Literacy Month!

national literacy month

September is National Literacy Month and at Literacy KC, we are so excited to celebrate! Strong literacy skills are essential skills for the development and growth of a community and our nation as a whole. However, literacy can easily get taken for granted as something that many of us have had the majority of our lives. This month is one to cherish because it helps to increase the awareness of low-literate populations within communities all over the country. Here are some things that you can do to help celebrate literacy throughout September


A father reads to his children during one of Literacy KC’s Let’s Read: Family Reading Program gatherings.

1. READ READ READ! The best way to celebrate a month full of literacy is by, of course, reading! Whether you take advantage of individual, group, and/or family reading opportunities, all are wonderful ways to enjoy this month. If there was ever a time when you needed an excuse to explain your excessive reading, now you have one!


2. Celebrate National Literacy Day on September 8th by visiting your local library and checking out a book! If you are in the Kansas City area, we recommend our partners, Mid-Continent Public Library and Kansas City Public Library.  

3. Increase Your Awareness: Did you know that there are over 225,000 low-literate adults in the Kansas City Metropolitan area? Do some research within your community to gauge the need. Often times the low-literate population within a community is much higher than most people realize. The next step after increasing your awareness, is to take action and help others who may be struggling with some form of low-literacy.


4. Attend Literacy KC’s Literacy For All Luncheon: Join us on Friday, September 16th from 11:45 am-1:00 pm to hear community leaders, along with Literacy KC volunteers and students, speak about the critical need for literacy in our homes, schools and businesses – and how we are working to accomplish our vision of literacy for all.

This luncheon will provide you with the opportunity to hear from our guest speakers, Jeffri Chadiha, a senior columnist and an on-air personality for the NFL Network and NFL.com, and Tom Bloch, former CEO of H&R Block & Co-Founder of University Academy. You will also hear from other literacy advocates in the community and get to know those involved with Literacy KC. It’s a great opportunity to introduce friends, family, and colleagues to our organization!

To purchase tickets, click here! For additional ticket & sponsorship information, email krogers@literacykc.org.


5. Volunteer with Us! What better way to celebrate this month than helping others to improve their literacy skills? We have volunteer opportunities that range from tutoring in a classroom or office support to assisting with special events and helping out in our computer lab. To learn more about volunteering, email kbrown@literacykc.org, visit our website, or call (816) 333-9332.

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Student Spotlight: Twyla

Twyla Coin

Twyla is a student in the Ticket To Read program at Literacy KC.

We sat down with Literacy KC student Twyla for a look into what drew her to our organization. Here is what she had to say:

“I came to Literacy KC because I used to get frustrated when I would try to read. One day I finally gave up and decided to come improve my reading skills. I knew a 78 year old that didn’t know how to read and I didn’t want to end up like him. I also like getting out of the house and coming to class. I enjoy my class because I like the classroom and my instructor. I also enjoy meeting new friends in my class and all of the tutors. My favorite part of the program has been reading! I have seven bookcases at home full of books and movies that I have not been able to read for the most part. I just wanted to be able to read one of the thick books in my bookcases that I could not read before. I’m getting there. I’m halfway through reading one now!

The greatest challenge for me with the program has been recognizing different words that mean the same thing. It has been hard for me to use these words with the same meaning. I stick with the program because it has helped me a lot and my whole family tells me how proud they are of me keeping up with this. I am constantly telling somebody about the class and they are proud.

Some of the goals that I have accomplished since I have been in class are reading with my granddaughter, filling out job applications, reading my mail, filling out government forms, and reading the newspaper. I also have been able to read articles and books about Judy Garland and John Wayne, which is really fun. I used to have to ask my neighbor for help when I couldn’t read something. It’s always fun to learn. If I meet someone who can’t read or spell, I tell them to come here whether they want to learn to read, write, spell, improve math, or study for their high school diploma.”

Do you want to help students like Twyla improve their reading, writing, math, & digital skills to achieve their goals? Visit literacykc.org for more information or call (816)333-9332. To volunteer with Literacy KC, please email kbrown@literacykc.org.

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The 30 Year History of Literacy KC


Literacy KC began as a dream and grew out of a passion to help people.  In 1985, a group of volunteers led by Catherine Matthews perceived a need and created a tiny organization to provide literacy tutoring for adults.  They had become aware of several adults that struggled with literacy skills and felt that there was an answer to help them gain new skills and improve on the limited skills that they had.  With a handful of students, Catherine embarked on a new journey by negotiating the use of a portion of the basement of the Country Club Congregational Church located at 205 West 65th Street, Kansas City, Missouri. She identified several individuals willing to volunteer their time and affiliated with the National Laubach Literacy Council to start a literacy tutoring program for adults.  The affiliation with Laubach provided the organization access to curriculum and materials.  The program was first called Kansas City Laubach Literacy Council.


1994: 1st Annual Corporate Spelling Bee. The Bee, which remains a significant source of fundraising for Literacy KC, brings teams from corporations in the KC area together to compete in a live spelling bee.  Corporations pay an entry fee and many bring “cheer squads” to compete for the spirit award.  During the Bee, silent and live auctions are held.

1996: For several years prior, the program was operated with an all-volunteer staff. The first Executive Director was hired, as well as a full-time Program Coordinator.

2000: The Literacy Works program was established. In this program, Literacy KC worked directly with corporations to place literacy tutoring skills programs on site at each corporation.  The rationale for the program was that increased literacy skills could increase productivity and reduce turnover for the company.  The strongest partnership was with Truman Hospital.  However, there were two factors that led to the eventual discontinuation of the program: first, many people were reluctant to come to this “volunteer” tutoring program at their place of work because of the stigma associated with an inability to read.  Second, the hospital eventually revised their hiring practices to require a high school diploma and evidence of ability to read, which nearly eliminated the potential student base on site.  The program continued until approximately 2007.

2006: Office relocated to 211 W. Armour Boulevard. It is significant to note that at the time of the move, the organization was paying $1,000 per month in rent to the church and the new monthly expense would be approximately $5,000.  The board approved the move based on information that $50,000 had been raised to support the move.  However, all of the needed financing was not actually available to Literacy KC and the increased expenditure quickly began to prove a challenge. By the end of 2006, the board was called on to make a cash infusion to make payroll.

2008: Near demise. In the summer, Interim Director Cliff Schiappa and Board President Mark Schweizer called a meeting to discuss the current standing of the organization.  In the year prior, board members had pitched in financially in order to keep the doors open and to be able to continue paying staff.  The Bee, although successful in its own right, was not enough to fund the programs and other funding was not coming in as anticipated. As there was no apparent “relief” in sight at that time, the discussion of possibly closing the doors of Literacy KC ensued.  A handful of board members were almost ready to do so, however there was not enough agreement to go ahead with this drastic measure.

Earlier that year, Interim Director Cliff Schiappa had crafted a grant proposal for the Human Foundation.  It was shortly after the above mentioned meeting that it was learned the organization was a finalist for this potential $100,000 grant.  In the end, Literacy KC did not win the overall grant but as one of the three organizations among the finalists, received $10,000.  This money was enough of a “shot in the arm” to keep the board motivated to move forward.

Fall 2008-2011: Staff was realigned to the following: Executive Director, Full-time Program Manager, Open Doors Coordinator, Part-time Tutor Trainer, Part-time Volunteer Coordinator, Operations Manager, Marketing/Communications Specialist [Note: titles may not be exact.]  The first Open Doors grant was developed and the program was funded.

2010: Metropolitan Community College – Penn Valley and a trial student tutoring program began on campus with the college providing the space and Literacy KC providing a classroom instructor and volunteer tutors.

Fall 2011: Formal start of the GEARS program at MCC-Penn Valley. Gillian Ford was hired as the GEARS Coordinator.  During that year, the student identification process was honed and the classroom/tutoring process was fine tuned. Finances remained an issue and board members again infused personal money at the end of the year to ensure bills, payrolls and holiday bonuses were paid.  During the strategic planning process, the board discussed the organization’s significant financial needs, the large number of adults needing the organization’s services, and the unwanted tag that our organization was the “best kept secret in Kansas City.”

2012: New Executive Director Carrie Coogan was hired & Gillian Ford Helm became Director of Programs. During the next year and a half (among many other changes), the organization’s accounting was contracted to Support KC, the lease was renegotiated, and employee health insurance bid out. Carrie and Gillian together reorganized every aspect of Literacy KC’s operations. Through research into adult literacy and reading acquisition, coupled with the success of the GEARS classroom-based program and in-depth analysis on the shortcomings of the one-to-one model, it was determined that a program overhaul was necessary in the evolution of Literacy KC programming if the organization wanted to truly increase numbers served, improve student progress, prove effectiveness, and affect change in our community.

A significant multi-year grant was won from the William T. Kemper Foundation that was the vote of confidence needed in order to leverage dollars from other funding sources in support of the program changes. The next two years brought research, a thoughtful education of Literacy KC supporters on the coming changes, internal administrative improvements, and an infusion of energy and community support into the renewed Literacy KC.

2013: Focus began to zero in on data, outcomes, and program effectiveness. A data consolidation project migrated all data into a single database and allowed valid recording and reporting. The beginning of the Literacy KC VISTA program (through CNCS) supported internal stability and capacity building through the addition of full-time cost-effective staff members.

2014: Literacy KC launched The Impact Initiative, a communications and identity effort to do a number of things: First, the continued diversification of student programming; second, to raise awareness about adult literacy and the visibility of Literacy KC; third, to work with community partners to leverage resources and broaden reach; fourth, to continue to build a strong infrastructure; and finally, to work with our constituents toward a paradigm shift away from one-to-one tutoring toward a classroom-based, instructor-led, tutor-supported, and community-based model called Ticket to Read. 2014 also saw the launch of the Let’s Read Family Reading Program and a major investment from United Way in the form of a substantial multi-year grant.

2015: Launch of the Ticket to Read program. It gave tutors and students a peer group, reinforcing the benefits of social and peer-to-peer learning; it provided relevant, dynamic, and appropriate curriculum; students access academically and geographically appropriate classes; and achieved strong outcomes through trackable metrics.

The first Fund Development Manager was hired, and this investment brought exponentially valuable returns. Literacy KC won the UMB Big Bash award, along with our second multi-year William T. Kemper investment. Partnerships included the Kansas City Public Library, Mid-Continent Public Library, Kansas City Parks & Recreation, Kansas City Public Schools, & more. We also became founding members of the Kansas City Digital Inclusion Coalition, and launched Career Online High School program, a nationally unique partnership with Mid-Continent Public Library and Kansas City Public Library that offers students the convenience of an online platform to earn a fully accredited high school diploma with an attached career certificate.

To mark the organization’s complete transformation and herald in the new era of Literacy Kansas City, the organization began a re-branding process, which also coincided with the 30th year of incorporation of the original Literacy Kansas City.


On April 28,2016, the new Literacy KC brand was revealed.

2016: At the 2016 Spelling Bee, the new and improved Literacy KC was revealed. The new logo highlights both the different facets of literacy – reading, writing, math, and digital skills – while representing the diverse community that plays a crucial role in building a legacy of literacy in our community and changing lives beyond words. The open doors invite you in as a student or supporter, and the books represent the boundless information and opportunities available through literacy.

To get involved with Literacy KC as we continue to build on our history, visit literacykc.org or call (816)333-9332.

*This is not meant to be an exhaustive, all-inclusive history of the organization, but rather an overview of some of the major events.*


Filed under AmeriCorps VISTA, COHS, Community Partners, Corporate Spelling Bee, For Students, For Tutors, For Volunteers, Fundraisers, Programs & Services, Uncategorized

How Do Our Volunteers Help Literacy KC?

by Kate Brown, Volunteer & Community Outreach Coordinator

As the staff member responsible for coordinating our volunteer efforts, I get a front row seat each day to the ways volunteers are helping Literacy KC work toward our mission of Literacy for All. Our volunteers are involved with many different aspects of the organization (see chart below), ranging from tutoring in our classes and helping in the computer lab to cutting flashcards and scanning student files. It is truly inspiring to come into work each day and watch as they interact with students and cheer them along as they achieve their educational goals.


A breakdown of the services provided by Literacy KC volunteers.

The volunteers at Literacy KC are making HUGE contributions to our organization. In the last fiscal year, Literacy KC had over 8,100 volunteer hours served! According to The Independent Sector’s rates for volunteer time, this is equivalent to over $190,000 worth of work. In terms of employees, our volunteers log more hours than 5 full-time workers would. These numbers mean a great deal to Literacy KC and they reinforce what we already know: that our volunteers are some of the most generous and dedicated in Kansas City. Volunteers are an integral part of our team and without them we would be unable to offer the depth of services that our students need and deserve. From all of us at Literacy KC, we’d like to say thank you to our amazing volunteers!

V-Carrie McDonald, Clara Van Draska, Jane Beasley - Copy

Carrie, Clara & Jane are referred  to as “The Librarians” as they are commonly tasked with arranging our library.

Want to join the fun and volunteer with Literacy KC? Contact Kate Brown at kbrown@literacykc.org,visit literacykc.org, or call our office at (816)333-9332.

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Let’s Read Program Summer Progress

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Have you ever attended a class at any of our Let’s Read sites? During this summer term, we had classes at Operation Breakthrough, Catholic Charities of St. Joseph, and two sites by Samuel Rodgers Health Centers, Chouteau Courts & Riverview Gardens. Thanks to our partner sites & instructors, many families in the Kansas City area have been able to come together and bond with dedicated time for family reading.


As shown above, the Let’s Read: Family Reading Program has been working very hard to improve family reading in Kansas City. At the conclusion of each class, the family leaves with a series of new reading tips, books to take home, and smiles on their faces!

As Carl Sagan says; “One of the greatest gifts adults can give—to their offspring and to their society—is to read to children.”

Want to get involved with Literacy KC’s Let’s Read: Family Reading Program? Contact Emily at (816) 333-9332 or by email at ehane@literacykc.org!

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Summer REPRESENT Term Comes to an End



The REPRESENT Class photo!

Seeking their Higher Purpose, the REPRESENT summer class completes its 8-week program today, July 28th, in literacy, visual symbology, personal finances, and job success.

While each of the five students will continue their studies in August at MCC-Penn Valley community college, their career goals vary widely:

Daniel’s plans include studying nutrition at Penn Valley and earning a personal training certificate.

Damika aims to become a registered nurse helping Alzheimer’s patients.

DeVonte, who will first complete the HiSET program, is interested in studying acting and wrestling.

Susannah plans to study voice and theatre at UMKC after completing her Associate Degree at Penn Valley.

Vyolla’s goal is to transfer to Stephens College after Penn Valley to study fashion design.

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Mentors, Coaches & Students relaxing on the last day of class with a pizza party.

Each REPRESENT student will meet with individual mentors on a regular basis as they undertake their next chapter in reaching their dreams.

As is his tradition, Instructor Phil Denver taught from the following poem, which never fails to arouse empathy:

Dreams By Langston Hughes

Hold fast to dreams

For if dreams die

Life is a broken-winged bird

That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams

For when dreams go

Life is a barren field

Frozen with snow.

We wish these five Star Students the very best success in achieving their dreams! To learn more, visit literacykc.org or call (816)333-9332.

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