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

What’s the Word?

What’s the Word?

Welcome to the new Blog of the Hoosier Hills Literacy League!  Here you will find a monthly update of the local literacy world, and the reflections of the Literacy Administrator, Laura Priebe (that’s me!).  I welcome your comments, and don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss an update!
This month the theme is actually 3 words, as I reflect on what I learned at the ProLiteracy Conference  in Minneapolis!

First, THANK You to the a SafeSpeed Foundation, which awarded me a scholarship which more than covered the cost of attending!  I would not have attended if it weren’t for this scholarship!  Thanks, Safespeed!

So… my 3 words – Volunteers,  Community and Technology

The first day was a Pre-Conference on Volunteer Management, presented by the Minnesota Literacy Council.  Minnesota uses hundreds of volunteers to address the problem of literacy, which, by the way, is the world’s largest solvable social ill.  So, needless to say, they have a lot to say about managing volunteers!

It’s commonly assumed that volunteerism is not as common today as it once was.  “Those Millennials” just don’t want to volunteer…well, I discovered that this is a misconception.  There are only slightly fewer volunteers today than there have been in years past, but the type of volunteer has changed.  Click here to read more about current volunteer opportunities for HHLL – from arm chair volunteering, also known as “slactivism,” to short term projects, to helping set the course of the future of the HHLL – there’re lots of ways to help!

This word means so many different things to people than it did in years past.  Community used to be synonymous with neighborhood.  Now we talk of on-line communities, a concept that removes the barriers of geography, but with different limitations.  Community can also refer to the feeling of connection you achieve when you gather around a common goal.  A physical place, such as a classroom, office or workplace can promote community, and many free-standing literacy organizations consciously seek to build a “community of learners,” where adult students can feel supported and connected to others who have similar goals and struggles.

HHLL does not have a permanent public area in which students and tutors regularly gather.  We are grateful for the community organizations that host our programs and office (THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU LPL, Ivy Tech and ARCC!).  That doesn’t mean we cannot build community among our tutors and learners, however – we just have to be creative!  This blog is a part of that effort (comment comment, comment!) and we also now have an Adult Literacy Class Facebook group, and we plan to have regular tutor gatherings.  I have realized that I personally have a need to feel more connected to others involved in local literacy efforts, so I will be reaching out to “build community” with those that are already involved as well as with those who might like to join us.

The Barbara Bush Foundation lauched the XPrize to invite edtech companies and entrepreneurs to develop technology specifically for adult learners.  Three of the 8 semi-finalists were present at the conference, and  I got a good look at their products.  One product, an app / on-line game called Learning Upgrade, is free to 30 of our students for the rest of 2017.  Xenos Isle is another, and Cell-Ed are the others.  (Click on those to check out the demos!)  Depending on learner response, we will likely seek funding to launch one of those learning platforms sometime in 2018.  In addition, I will be reviewing and gathering several free resources into a “Learner Resources” tab on our homepage.  Technology also extends to tutor training /professional development, so I will also add another tab to our homepage labelled “Tutor Resources.”