Lake County Literacy Leaders Convene at Summit

Literacy advocates from local libraries, school districts, the College of Lake County and many community organizations gathered in August at the Waukegan Public Library to discuss ways to promote literacy in Lake County. Josh Anderson, the library’s literacy coordinator, says the groups plan to host a Literacy Summit each year to help exchange ideas and solutions.

As the first literacy summit and gathering of literacy organizations, the goals were to raise awareness about literacy issues, especially among libraries, and promote collaboration between local organizations that provide literacy services. Seven libraries, four school districts, and six community organizations attended the five-hour workshop which featured Susan Neustrom, Executive Director of JUST (Justice, Understanding, Service, Teaching) of DuPage, and Dr. Michele Vaughn, Associate Dean of Community Education at the College of Lake County, as keynote speakers.

Attendees attended one of three literacy break out sessions during the day which included information on what resources are and are not available in the community and how to fill the gaps. The Family Literacy session included early literacy principles, the idea that parents are child’s first teacher, and parenting teaching tools. The Adult Literacy group talked about Adult Basic Education (ABE) classes, GED information, job skills, and computer, health, and financial literacy. The last session covered Spanish Literacy and the importance of instructing Spanish speakers in their native language.

Anderson said, “I was really impressed with the mixture of community organizations and libraries we had attending. The biggest emotion for the day was relief.  We all needed a chance to physically see the faces that are collaborating in the literacy effort in Lake County, to say, ‘I’m not alone.’  I think the seeds for more than a few partnerships were planted.”

Library Director Richard Lee summed up the seminar by commenting, “In the past, libraries focused on community wants. But times are changing; this literacy summit is about giving people what they need.”