Literacy Resources in Cleveland Discussion

Discussion  Let’s talk about Literacy Resources in Cleveland!

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Bitmoji ImageHough Reads - raising the literacy rates in children and adults in the city

(Links to an external site.)Instructions 

Please read about Literacy Resources in Cleveland and then REPLY to this post and answer these  questions:

  1. Where do you usually read? Do you have a favorite chair or quiet place?
  2. Add a person’s name from the article and tell us who that person is. 

There are no right or wrong answers here, just an opportunity to reflect.

Article about Literacy Resources in Cleveland

Rhonda Crowder and Hough Reads battle widespread illiteracy: Cleveland Champions

Updated Dec 13, 2019; Posted Nov 29, 2019

Hough Reads - raising the literacy rates in children and adults in the cityRhonda Crowder, 45, coordinator of Hough Reads, has been encouraging children and adults in the Hough neighborhood to read, read, read. Here, Crowder stands by a mural near Hough Avenue, painted a month ago by local artist Brandon Graves. Crowder is one of this year’s recipients of the Cleveland City Champions award. Lisa DeJong/The Plain DealerLisa DeJong/The Plain Dealer

By Sharon Broussard | Special to The Plain Dealer

This story is part of The Plain Dealer’s Cleveland City Champions series, which honors people and organizations that have done bold, innovative work to lift up a neighborhood or a community. The series was produced in partnership with The Guardian and with public broadcaster?Ideastream. To read about other Cleveland City Champions, go to (Links to an external site.)

  1. CLEVELAND, Ohio — As youngsters listened to Cleveland City Council Member Basheer Jones read a children’s story at the Hough Public Library two summers ago, a mother of three tapped Rhonda Crowder on the shoulder and pulled her aside.
  2. “Sister, I can’t read,” the embarrassed woman whispered.
  3. “That helped me understand the magnitude of the problem” said Crowder, who is the volunteer coordinator of Hough Reads, a family literacy program.
  4. Crowder helped the woman find an adult literacy program. In the process, she discovered that she had volunteered to serve on the front lines of a major battle in Hough. Experts believe that Hough has one of Cleveland’s highest illiteracy rates.
  5. According to a 2000 study, about 95% of Hough residents over 16 could read so poorly that they could barely figure out a map or calculate fees. The figure was 97% in Kinsman, reported Case Western Reserve University’s Center for Urban Poverty and Community Development.
  6. Crowder has lived in Hough for most of her life, so the problem is right in her own back yard. That helped cement her dedication to Hough Reads.
  7. Hough Reads - raising the literacy rates in children and adults in the cityRhonda Crowder, 45, coordinator of Hough Reads, re-fills the Little Free Library outside of the Hough Multipurpose Center. Crowder is one of this year’s recipients of the Cleveland City Champions award. Lisa DeJong/The Plain DealerLisa DeJong/The Plain Dealer
  8. The program is the brainchild of Margaret Bernstein, WKYC’s director of advocacy and community initiatives, who is using neighborhood advocates and little free libraries, those wooden standing boxes filled with books, to encourage impoverished communities to read.
  9. Crowder is a published author who once worked for the Call and Post newspaper in Cleveland. She stepped up, with an assist from her art-director friend Wayne Dailey, said Bernstein.
  10. Over the last two summers, Crowder has put up banners on street poles along Hough Ave. starring the neighborhood’s most dedicated readers. She has organized family literacy nights where local celebrities read books at Hough Library. She held a book club night for adults at the Chateau Hough winery. She kept Hough’s Little Free Library, decorated with a Marvel superhero theme, stacked with books, courtesy of the Kids Book Bank in Cleveland.
  11. She also distributed free books to places like Rainey Institute, aware that many children don’t have any books at home besides textbooks. “Every time we do that, we leave without any books,” Crowder said. “Some adults even ask for books.”
  12. “It’s really beyond my dreams,” said Bernstein, who said that Crowder had helped get books to dozens of children in Hough.
  13. Jones said Hough Reads is a “powerful program” that he wanted in Hough to join other available social services, from free diapers to a food pantry.
  14. “It was really wonderful,” said Hough library manager Lexy Kmiecik. She said the program encourages children and parents to read books and to talk about literacy while at the grocery store or waiting for the bus.
  15. The program’s greatest obstacle is a lack of funding, said Crowder.
  16. Councilman Jones and Neighborhood Connections have provided as much as $15,000 for the installation of the banners and the family meals at the library. Crowder also has spent about $700 of her own money, buying books and other supplies. “I don’t have any children, so I can’t take it with me when I die,” she said softly.
  17. Hough Reads - raising the literacy rates in children and adults in the cityTanisha Robinson, an instructor with Adult Education Services with the Cuyahoga County Library, right, helps student Marvin Brown, left, study for his GED test at the Hough Multipurpose Center. This class is with the Aspire Greater Cleveland Program. Rhonda Crowder, 45, coordinator of Hough Reads, (not pictured here) connected with the Cuyahoga County Library and asked for GED classes to be moved to a better-served location at the Hough Multipurpose Center. Lisa DeJong/The Plain DealerLisa DeJong/The Plain Dealer
  18. She has another reason for her generosity, as well. As a child, she drew hope from books.
  19. She grew up in Hough, an honor roll student who was the child of literate blue collar workers. Her grandfather read the newspaper every day. However, as she started high school, she lost hope in her future. She started skipping school — and books.
  20. “I began to realize that we didn’t have much money and there was no savings for me to go to college. So I started saying, ‘I will just hang out with the group on the corner.’” She became a serious student in her senior year and managed to graduate, but she still didn’t think that education mattered, she said.
  21. She started reading again after a mentor gave her a copy of Maya Angelou’s book, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” Crowder had never heard of Angelou but she devoured the book, moved by the eloquence of the writing and how Angelou overcame challenges in her life. After she finished it, she called Cuyahoga Community College and enrolled in school, eventually receiving her bachelor’s degree in English from Cleveland State University and becoming a writer.
  22. Crowder wants to do more to get children and their parents to read for pleasure. She hopes to put signs about reading on RTA’s 38 bus, which rolls down Hough Ave. Strong reading skills can change the lives of Hough’s next generation of adults, she said.
  23. “I always say, imagine if that 95% became literate, what could happen?” she said. “What kind of neighborhood could they create? What kind of life could they create for their children, for their families? I want a better life for them.”
  24. * * *

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