Sometimes I wonder whether literacy is really important, or going to be important in the future. It seems beyond important to me, but maybe that’s because reading is something I am so good at. If the world changes, will I be utterly useless? Well, of course I will, because I am soon to be one of the aged, and by definition of no further use. I hear that twenty-somethings don’t talk much, and don’t write at all, even at work. They text. And truth be told, reading and writing are only very recently part of the broad human experience, so it’s hard to argue that they’re essential.

Today I was writing a grant for “youth literacy.” Just $3000, so I was knocking it off I thought in a half hour or so. Dollar General, founded by a man who was illiterate most of his life, was the grant maker, and I had to fill out an online form. I proposed a Story Corner, where adults could read aloud to 6-8 year-olds struggling with reading. The last section, except for the Patriot Act attestations (no, the money will not support terrorism), was for the budget, and I had my 6 items ready: a part-time staffer to read, bookcases, books, a carpet, cushions for the kids to sit on, posters. I was surprised to see only three budget categories available in the form: computers, computer software, and instructional materials. ?? Computers? Software? For literacy?

So I called the number that appeared on the website. I paraphrase: “Call us at nnn-nnn-nnnn. We love to hear from grant seekers, and welcome your questions.” I reached an answering machine that suggested I check the website if I had questions. I left a message, and no, it wasn’t “is it true I can use this literacy grant to pay for computer games, but not books?” I probably won’t hear back.

Then I thought why not? I’ll go back to the website and see whether there’s a way to ask my questions there. There was, and I sent “I have expenses that don’t fit into these categories. Does that mean that those items may not be paid out of the grant?” I was polite. Half an hour later, not bad, considering they’d told me I would hear within 1 business day, I received an email. It seems that their technical staff can’t answer substantive questions, only technical ones, things like “is there some way for me to print my application,” which I figured out on my own — click on the print button. See what reading does for you?

Stymied, I switched to Target and requested $2000 for the project. I am not LMAO. CU L8TR.


5 responses »

  1. I got your point, Raechel, but my mind wandered to the notion that it would take a grant to create the combination of a reader, a learner, and a book. I used to read to kids in my rural primary school. Because they asked me. No background check, no identification badge. I just picked out a book I like and read it every week. I can’t see allowing someone to read to my child (ok, grandchild now) at the library, even if I were sitting next to the reader or holding my child. I guess you need the grant – for the background check, at least.
    Computers helping kids to read – suck the joy out of reading, why don’t they?

  2. I feel guilty reading this. I have 3 electronic devices for my toddler to learn the alphabet. We use them frequently. We have litterally hundreds of childrens books, flashcards, puzzles, etc and we read the same book every night, and if I am trying to trick him into cuddling with me, I’m might be able to read a second book. But the electronics win, because my brain can be turned off and hopefully his can be turned on. And I get to pretend that it’s not as bad as the educational programming he watches.

    It seems they wanted to get the “credit” for helping literacy, but not have any brain power, just electrical power, behind it.

    • How would you like to write a guest post on mother guilt? We never feel good enough, do we?

      BTW, the kids that my Story Corner would help are dropped off at school or walk to school at 7:45 a.m., head to the Club after school, eat a sandwich for dinner, and walk home at 8:00 pm when the Club closes. I know that most of the parents care; they’re just working and scrambling to make it. Anyway, I think that for those kids, it’s essential to have a human reading the stories. Your children have you and their dad; electronics are extra.

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