fridge poetry cropped

The Lawrenceburg Event Center was full of almost 800 8th graders, about 30 high-schoolers, and about as many adults, including service providers, local law enforcement, as well as school chaperones. The occasion — 14th annual CASA Youth Summit, planned by CASA’s Youth Ambassadors. The goal of this day-long event is to equip the current 8th graders with the strategies to resist the temptations of using and abusing various substances. The rooms were “Peer to Peer Learnshops,” such as “Wrecked Card Game,” a random game of chance where were confronted with various scenarios and discussed possible choices, and an “Escape Room” where players were presented with puzzles and challenges related to friendships and potential career and academic paths. The kids rotated throughout 7 areas with 19 different activities, and gathered prizes by engaging in conversations with adults about possible careers.

The hallway parallel to High Street was dubbed “Assistance Alley,” where the Hoosier Hills Literacy League, along with 15 other service organizations showcased opportunities to both receive services as well as become involved to combat boredom. As kids approached our table, they could build words from Bananagrams tiles (similar to Scrabble), or craft free-verse poems with a set of refrigerator poetry.

It was a full day, and we all heaved a sigh of relief after it was over.

A week and a half later, I was having breakfast with the youth pastor at our church. We were talking about burnout, and the challenge of tackling a task that technically is in your job description, but which you can’t do alone.

The phrase “Do not grow weary in doing good” came to mind.

do not grow weary in doing good

Knowing that context is important, we looked it up. It’s mentioned twice in the Bible, and the one we read was in a section subtitled (in that particular version) “Warning Against Irresponsible Behavior.”  We surmised that the readers of this letter from the first century were facing a situation that we see today as well — There’s a task ahead, it looks huge, and a group of people mobilize.   In the first century, the group of people was the early church. I imagine that these people were doing the same thing we do today – take the big job, divide it up into smaller tasks, assign those tasks to those who are suitable for them, and wait to see results.

My friend and I were wrestling together with the weariness that comes from that good work. What’s the source of that weariness? Maybe it’s that the results we were anticipating aren’t visible. Maybe it’s because of false assumptions. Maybe the problem is actually identifying the problem. Of course, there’s always the dreaded ego.

Often that weariness causes us to throw up our hands and say, “It’s not my job.” The attitude is contagious. It seemed to us, as we talked over coffee that morning, that that was what the apostle (or more accurately, the Bible scholars that added the subheading of that translation) dubbed “irresponsible behavior.”

It seems harsh. Everyone grows weary. “Doing good” is hard work.

The word “responsibility” comes from an obsolete French word “responsible”, itself coming from a Latin word “responsabilis”, the past participle of “respondere”, meaning “to respond”

http://www.englishstack exchange.com

When we look again at the word history of the word RESPONSIBILITY, we see the connection with the verb “to respond.” Citizens Advocating for Substance Use Awareness (CASA) and their Youth Ambassadors responded by proactively planning this Youth Summit. Representatives from other organizations gathered to do their part, because we all share the responsibility. Sometimes we grow weary.

Mahatma Ghandi said “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Our world, our communities need good workers to be-the-changeaddress the various problems our society. What motivates us? For many of us it’s some sort of faith. For many of us it’s the desire to leave the world a better place for the next generation. I’m guessing that for all of us it’s some mixture of the two, plus something more. In any case, we see a problem, and we respond. Each must decide how and where to “be the change.”

I wish I knew the young man’s name who crafted that line with our set of refrigerator poetry. That moment offered a sort of relief from the weariness. Hope for the future. Confirmation that our work is not in vain.

When it comes down to it, we do grow weary, and then we are renewed. Like I was by this young man at the CASA Youth Summit.

casa white bkgrd



What’s the Word? Compassion.

compassionThe ARCC was quiet. We were busy in the building where AHS students of old wrestled with academic challenges. At the end of the hall in what is now the Activity Room, we sat – 2 learners, a tutor and myself. It was one of those rare moments when everything seemed to be coming together. I had actually had time to plan a lesson, no one slipped on the ice coming in, and my chair was nice and comfy. We did a one-word check-in with each person in the room – my word was RELAXED, our tutor’s was TIRED and one’s learner was COLD. One learner’s word was COMPASSION. We’ll call her Bev.

Our warm-up exercise was to build smaller words out of a larger phrase. For today I chose “TROPICAL RAINFOREST.” It was perfect for a cold January day. We found words like TOP, TROT, REFRAIN, etc… You get the idea. I found the word AIN’T, and we researched the etymology of that word, and how language changes over time. Someone found the word COP, and one learner, whose first language is not English, asked the difference between COP and POLICE. I struggled to explain it…and we moved on.

About 15 minutes later, two police officers came down the hall in uniform. I waved them in, and introduced myself to them. They were a little taken aback. I’m sure they were wondering what they were walking into.

One officer took the lead and told us the word history of the word COP, telling us all something we didn’t know. He used the word VERNACULAR. We thanked them, and the two officers departed to the locker room to change for their workouts.

The tutor and learners continued with the lesson, and I struggled to gather my thoughts to write the reports that are due at the end of the month.

We could have done a grammar lesson on COMPASSION, which was Bev’s word, but somehow this interaction meant more than any discussion of parts of speech could have. These officers have a hard job, as law enforcement. But they took the time to interact with these learners and do some teaching. They may never have met an English language learner before, or they may have…I have no idea. I’m sure they have interacted with those in recovery, interactions for which DIFFICULT seems euphemistic. Some of them may be in RECOVERY themselves. None of us are immune. What’s the answer? COMPASSION.

What’s the Word? Fall Newsletter

Books, Burritos, Board Games_updated2

Come on over to Ivy Tech –Riverfront for lunch and a game or two! Thanks to our event sponsors, Aurora Chipotle Mexican Grill and Thrivent Financial, we are offering Books, Burritos, & Board Games in partnership with Ivy Tech, Lawrenceburg on Thursday, November 1. We will also have brand new books for sale, and free giveaways throughout the event.

Join us!




App Based Learning Increases Student Engagement for Adults!

It fits in the palm of your hand, and it’s almost always with you. It’s a cell phone, and almost everyone has one these days. Why not make it work for us?

That’s what we’re doing with our adult students, and they love it. With a learning app, students don’t have to worry about taking books with them, or finding quiet to concentrate on reading long passages. If they have 10 minutes and a pair of ear buds, they can make progress towards their goals.

The app is called Learning Upgrade, and it’s a finalist in the Adult Literacy XPrize. The XPrize, sponsored by the Barbara Bush Foundation and Dollar General Literacy Foundation, challenged education technology companies to develop an app to tackle the adult literacy problem.

With the free pilot available until Dec. 31, 2018, up to 30 students can work on Math and English using the app. When students work through all of the levels on Learning Upgrade in English (5 levels) and Math (8 levels plus algebra), they will be prepared to take a free HSE practice test and then the HSE exam, earning a High School Equivalency.

Ten students are currently working on the app, logging in over 300 hours since they began at the end of August, and completing over 1000 lessons!

One of the best things about the app is the immediate feedback. When students are working, we often hear “Right On” and “Excellent” as they give the correct answers. It’s great to see them learning and having fun, most of all feeling good about themselves as they learn!

We have had such great success with this, that we hope to get funding to continue throughout 2018.

Free for a Limited Time! 

If you or someone you know would benefit from this app, call now to enroll for free!! 812-584-8516

Be a Friend of Hoosier Literacy!

The Friends of Hoosier Literacy is an informal group of local citizens who support the mission of the Hoosier Hills Literacy League.

Friends of Hoosier Literacy are invited to volunteer for events or long-term, by tutoring or serving on the board of directors, or can simply support us with a membership.

Members receive this newsletter bi-monthly, and advance notice to a variety of events throughout the year.

Last but not least, for as little as $5 a year, you can say that YOU SUPPORT LITERACY!

Click here to become a member!

Imagination Library— 10 Years of Book Delivery in Dearborn County!

It was late 2007, and Dianna Wissinger was at the helm of the Hoosier Hills Literacy League.  She heard about this great program, and was determined to bring it to the childrImgLib logo coloren in Dearborn County.

Though Dianna is no longer in the area, she remembers the program fondly. “When I heard about the program from a colleague, it was a no-brainer, as long as we could get the funding.  It was always a treat to be recognized in the community by an Imagination Library family. The parents and the children were always so grateful for the monthly gift of such a quality book.”

Since that time, the Dearborn County Imagination Library has provided for over 2200 children to receive new, age-appropriate books delivered directly to their homes.  A total of 75,276 books have been delivered to date!

The Imagination Library has enjoyed support from a variety of different funders since its beginning in 2008.  A Lawrenceburg AEP grant helped with the launch, and Dearborn Community Foundation, Messer Construction and the City of Lawrenceburg have helped maintain it over the years.  Through it all, however, the steady support of the Lawrenceburg Public Library Resources and Services Foundation and the Aurora Public Library Foundation has been vital.

Though we’ve had a monthly enrollment of  up to 880 children in the past, our current enrollment is limited to 300 children.  Click here to download a registration form, or stop by any local library to ask for a paper form.

If you want to ensure the continuation of this terrific program, Sponsor a Child for the Imagination Library! We will even send a card to someone special on your behalf.


Summer Learning

hopscotch“No more pencils, no more books, no more teachers’ dirty looks!”

That’s what we used to think when school let out — 3 glorious months when we could forget everything we learned and simply spend hours lying on the lawn, looking for cloud shapes.

But many of us are parents now, and we know that learning never really stops.  Though summer may mean less structured days, it’s important to watch for opportunities to stimulate our children’s brains during those long summer days.

Sidewalk chalk must be one of the most creative toys ever invented.  The driveway or sidewalk can become a town, a canvas, a message board, or a life-sized board game.  Try simply drawing a shape and let your child make it into a silly animal.  Add a speech bubble and create a story.  Tap into your own imagination, and see where it takes you!  Fill an empty spray bottle with water and watch the colors blend!

Car rides and walks are a great time to play “The Alphabet Game.”  Just for fun, check out this classic Sesame Street video for a twist on this simple game.


I can’t forget to mention local public libraries as another great resource.  This summer’s theme is Libraries Rock!  Here are links to both of our libraries, and it’s always free and cool at the library!

Lawrenceburg Public Library

Aurora Public Library

When you get home from the library with your books, why not set up a reading nook?  Drape a blanket over a table in the living room, or between 2 trees in the yard.  Get cozy and escape into the world of a good book!

Reading-Forts-6Check out www.fortmagic.com for some ideas, like the cool fort featured here!





It doesn’t have to be that fancy, it can be as simple as this one from www.TheSuburbanMom.com

There are about 8 weeks in summer vacation, and we’re well into it now.  Take a few minutes to browse these websites for some more great ideas!



Don’t forget — build some memories, make it fun, and ENJOY!


Moms and Mentors

tulips-in-bloom-400x280     GraduationFather And Son 1


As flowers bloom and flood waters recede, our thoughts turn to events that we observe each spring, Mother’s Day, Graduations, and Father’s Day.  It’s pretty universal.  Even if you aren’t a parent, you have parents, and even if you don’t know someone who is graduating, you undoubtedly have memories of your own school days.

As I think of Mother’s Day, I think of a story from a Hoosier Hills Literacy League volunteer who helped out with the Dolly Parton Imagination Library a few years ago.  To put it in context, it was during a time when the funding was briefly interrupted.  Let’s call the story, “What One Mom Did.”

ImgLib logo colorI was leaving the Aurora Public Library on a Monday morning errand for the Literacy League when a woman and her little boy struck up a conversation with me.  She had noticed I was carrying Imagination Library books, and she told me her story:
“Every month when a book was delivered, the mail carrier would leave it on the front door step and every month my son would race up to the front doorstep to retrieve it.  Giddy with anticipation, he would unwrap the book and refuse to let me enter the house until we both sat on the front porch and read the book cover to cover.  He was so upset when I told him the books wouldn’t be coming any more.  I knew I had to come up with a creative solution so we wouldn’t lose this special time together!  I decided to go to garage sales and pick out books I thought he would enjoy.  Now each month, I have been placing those garage sale books on the front porch just like the mailman and we sit together and read them.  I cannot wait for the program to resume because he just loves it so much.”

From my perspective as a recent college graduate, it was one of those awesome random moments when I got to see the impact of a program and my small part in it. My conversation with this mom showed me that the Imagination Library helped her create a reading ritual, one that was so important to her and her son that she refused to let it end, even when the funding did.

Since the Dolly Parton Imagination Library came to Dearborn County in 2008, over 2,000 local children have received a book in the mail each month, at no cost to them.  Because of local funding, most recently from both the Aurora Public Library Foundation and the Lawrenceburg Public Library Foundation, over 74,000 books have been delivered!  That means that moments like the one above – potentially tens of thousands of them – have been happening between moms, dads, grandparents, and caregivers and local children.  These moments build relationships and a love of reading that can last a lifetime.

These moments can last a lifetime, but sometimes as a child grows, things happen that threaten to derail the education process.  Perhaps it’s an illness of a parent, a divorce, a learning disability, or a move to another school. That’s where mentors come in.

Miriam-Webster’s on-line dictionary defines a mentor as

“a trusted counselor or guide.”


According to the Mentoring Effect, a 2014 study by MENTOR, the National Mentoring Partnership, “The consistent, enduring presence of a caring adult in a young person’s life can be the difference between staying in school or dropping out, making healthy decisions or engaging in risky behaviors, and realizing one’s potential or failing to achieve one’s dreams.” (http://www.mentoring.org/new-site/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/The_Mentoring_Effect_Executive_Summary.pdf).

We really don’t need a research study to confirm this, because we intuitively know that adults, whether there are part of a formal mentoring program or not, can have a huge impact on a young person’s life.

There are many formal mentoring programs, such as Big Brothers, Big Sisters.  The Hoosier Hills Literacy League also trains volunteers to work with students who have reading challenges, and often that provides a sort of mentoring relationship.

As wonderful as these programs are, many people today hesitate to make a commitment to a formal mentoring or tutoring program.  Valuable relationships can also be built naturally without the structure of an official program.  Neighbors and family friends often have the opportunity to encourage young people – even a kind word and a sincere interest in a young person’s life can make a difference.

Several years ago I went to a conference sponsored by State Farm Insurance on the theme of Drop out Prevention.  I came home with a round magnet  with a big “:17,” around which was the statistic “Every 17 minutes a youth drops out of high school.”  I was new in this literacy work, and the vision of that magnet sticks in my head – much longer that it stuck on my filing cabinet.

How long take to have a meaningful contact with a young person?  That depends on each one of us.  Whether it’s sitting down to read a book with a little one, engaging the child of a friend in conversation, tutoring or becoming a “Big” through Big Brothers Big Sisters, taking a few minutes to connect with a young person can make a world of difference in their life.

There are those in our community who are called to this work full-time, and you can honor them by making a donation to the Dearborn County Imagination Library on their behalf.  For a donation of just $36, you can support the monthly delivery of these books to one child for an entire year.  We’ll even send a card!  Click on the link to learn more! www.hoosierhillsliteracyleague.net


Friends, Tutors, and Marching Ahead

friend·ship    /ˈfren(d)SHip/    noun

  • 1.the emotions or conduct of friends; the state of being friends.

We need all the friends we can get. As individuals and as organizations, we function best when we are united around what we have in common.

That’s why we created the Friends of Hoosier Literacy.  Friends of Hoosier Literacy is an informal group of local citizens who support the mission of the Hoosier Hills Literacy League.

Founding member Donna Marple, who recently retired from Ivy Tech, says, “As a lifelong educator, I can think of no better way to give back to my community than by promoting literacy.  I know that there are many people who will support the  wonderful work you are doing.” (Read more about our work here.)

Our Mission

The Hoosier Hills Literacy League enhances personal growth and individual livelihood by providing literacy instruction, community outreach and supportive resources to residents of Southeastern Indiana.

If you can stand by that mission, and can afford at least $5 ($1 if you are a student), then would you consider becoming our friend?

As a benefit of membership, you will receive our monthly newsletter (if you are reading this, you already do), and priority registration for special events.

You will also be able to say that you support literacy.  How cool is that? Click on the picture below to go to our on-line form.



As the “Our Local Literacy League,” we have a small handful of tutors who work one-on-one with adults who have reading challenges.  We’d like to increase the number of tutors we have so that those who are in our classes can advance more quickly as they work one-on-one with a tutor.

To that end, we are changing the way we train our tutors.  Instead of waiting for our semi-annual tutor training, new tutors will be able to take an on-line tutor training called Tutor Ready.  Here they can get as much training as they need to feel comfortable, and they can return to the site for refreshers as they the need arises.  Each module is about 15-20 minutes long, and includes research based methods about how to teach reading to adults, and includes videos or real tutors using those techniques with real students.

There are a total of 52 modules, and the entire curriculum can be completed in about 12-15 hours.  Since many of our volunteer tutors have prior experience in education, we require that they view at least 4 hours of the curriculum.

After they complete the minimum of 4 hours, new tutors will meet with the Literacy Administrator and be given a tutoring assignment.

Learn more about Tutor Ready by going here, and contact me here to let me know you’re interested!

march into spring

Finally, I have to spend a little time talking about Margie Kleier.  Margie is one of our long-time volunteers.  Back in the 90’s, she joined the Literacy League when it was still a volunteer organization.  Her co-worker Ann Smith, who was the president of HHLL at the time, told her she just had to get involved, and so she did.

Margie has served on the board in several capacities, and as the Business Manager of the Lawrenceburg Public Library District, the wonderful organization who hosts the HHLL, she served as the liaison between the two organizations.  In addition, for over a decade, Margie gave hundreds of hours each week tutoring the Pre-GED and GED Prep students in math, and continuing to  work with them on basic reading as the program changed to Adult Literacy.

Margie will be retiring and moving with her husband to North Carolina in mid-April. Always a gentle encourager to both our students and her co-workers, Margie will be greatly missed.  Stop by LPL and chat with Margie before her last day on April 14.

Not everyone can be so heavily involved, but many can become a Friend of Hoosier Literacy, and if we have friends, we will have all we need.





What the World Needs Now is Love, Sweet Love

Dionne Warwick sang it first in 1966.

It makes a good song, and who can argue with the idea?

It’s a simple idea, but it’s not so simple to hand heartimplement.


You can’t exactly go around hugging everyone you meet.  In fact, that approach could do more harm than good!

But it’s also been said that one way to spell love is T-I-M-E.

Everyone has ideas about what is wrong in our society.  We could talk about the breakdown of the family, the lack of funding/accountability/values in our public education system, how easy it is to get illegal weapons or illegal drugs, the lack of caring community and the resulting rise in loneliness.

We can name the problem, but that only will get us so far.  If we want to be part of the solution, we need to take the next step.


If love is the answer, and love is spelled T-I-M-E, then why not find the non-profit that addresses a particular problem, and VOLUNTEER?

You can mentor a child through Big Brothers/Big Sisters, and support a struggling family. (Go to www.bigsforkids.org, or call Laura Rolf at 812-747-7281)


You can volunteer in a local classroom through Hoosier Hills Literacy League and support a kindergarten teacher. (Call Laura Priebe at 812-584-8516, or go to http://www.hoosierhillsliteracyleague.net/volunteer.html)

You can join with Citizens Against Substance Abuse and support the individuals working on the ground level to encourage us all to Always Think Prevention. (http://www.dearborncountycasa.com/)

You can be the Voice of a Child who has been a victim of abuse or neglect, and become trained as a Court Appointed Child Advocate. (Go to https://www.voiceofachild.net/ or call 812-537-8741)

If you are over the age of 55, you can join with others in a variety of volunteer opportunities through Retired & Senior Volunteer Program.  (http://www.myrsvp.org/, or call 812-539-4005)

These are just some ideas, and each has a different time commitment.  If nothing here appeals to you, get on-line and search for an opportunity that fits your passion.

Volunteering benefits our community, but the person who volunteers also experiences many benefits as well. According to an on-line article in The Balance, some of those benefits include better brain function, more powerful attachments, improved mental health, emotional stability, self-esteem, and even job prospects.  Studies also show that those who volunteer not only lead more satisfied lives, but they also live longer! (https://www.thebalance.com/unexpected-benefits-of-volunteering-4132453)

So, instead of complaining about how bad things are, get in there and make a positive change.  You’ll be glad you did.

What’s the Word JANUARY really mean?

janusDid you know that the month of January was named after the Roman god, Janus?  According to Dictionary.com, Janus is “an ancient Roman god of doorways, of beginnings …..usually  represented as having one head with two bearded faces back to back, looking in opposite directions.

In January we look back and we look ahead.  Though we are not mythical gods, we still have the ability to go into the new year having learned something from the previous year’s events.

As I look back at my involvement in the world of literacy during 2017, there are several things I’d like to share.  (If you want to know more about any of these endeavors, click on the highlighted links). Continue reading

EC Student Helps Inmates Escape


reading escape“Is it ok if I look at some of these books while we wait?”  Those words are music to any teacher’s ears.

“Sure,” I said.  I was busy grading papers, and it would only be a few minutes before the men went back to their dorm.  The man who had asked about the books started talking about his favorite authors and titles.

“Do you know, I never read a book from beginning to end until I came to jail?”

That comment is what really made me want to expand the library at the jail.

You may never have thought of having access to books as a freedom.  With the internet providing 24

hour access to information, we don’t hear much about book burnings these days.

Knowledge is power, and over the years books have had an undeniable influence history.  Abraham Lincoln, when he met Harriet Beecher Stowe, is said to have commented, “So you’re the little lady who started this big war.”  Her book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin gave readers in 1852 a realistic and deeply disturbing picture of slavery.  Ken Kesey’s novel, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (and the film by the same name) similarly held a magnifying glass up to psychiatry practices in the 1960s, and indirectly led to reforms in the field.

Reading for pleasure can be just a powerful. Reading about another person’s experiences builds empathy and creates understanding.  Anyone who has read Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum can understand better the complexities of life under Nazi rule in Germany in the 1930s, especially for women.

Rarely does one pick up a book because they want to change their minds, however.  Most often we just want to read a good story.  That’s certainly the case for the men and women in the Dearborn County jail.

And that’s what inspired East Central senior, Anna Kubitz to hold a book drive to re-stock the shelves of the library at the jail. With the help of her English Teacher Jennifer Tucker, Anna collected over 200 paperbacks from her fellow students and staff at East Central.   Topics ranged from young adult dystopian fiction to fantasy, as well as non-fiction titles about attaining a pilot’s license or raising poultry.

As I sorted, marked and stacked the books on the shelves, the female students in my adult education independent study class browsed the donations.  Once in a while a title stood out, and I held it up.  With a stack of books in front of her, one student said “Stop!  You’re killing me!  I already have so many books!”  Like kids in a candy shop, each book was a treat.  They admired each book, commenting often on the quality.  They took as many as they wanted, with promises to complete writing assignments for each book they read.

Now there are plenty of choices for those who want to escape the walls of the Dearborn County jail. Legally and literarily.jail book drive