Prolific crime author, Ruth Rendell has been busy recently, promoting her most recent novel, Archie and Archie, the second she has written, aimed at adults that are learning to read. Featuring a cat and a dog, the book is made up of words of two syllables or fewer. An ambassador for the National Literacy Trust, Rendell says that there are millions of adults who cannot read at all and many more are barely able to read newspaper headlines.
I, for one, would far rather that the UK government put the money earmarked for the Trident nuclear deterrent, into health and cash-strapped local authorities so that they can retain their library services. Cutting library services in an effort to balance the books is a tragedy for those who suffer the stigma of being unable to read. The inability to read causes misery for millions. And the long-term effect on the British (and global) economy of improved literacy will have a far greater impact than that of the legacy of any politician.
It might seem odd to donate a signed copy of Revolution Earth to a literacy program in the USA when we live in the UK, but such is the global reach of the reading community that a request from a friend on Goodreads really brought the problem of literacy home to me. The ability to read is such a fundamental life skill that I for one take it so much for granted. It is tragic that there are still so many people in the world who, for whatever reason struggle to understand written language.
Dawn Lowery runs a youth literacy program in Dalton, Georgia and we were delighted to donate a signed copy of our book to Dawn who, as well as being actively involved in the youth literacy program, lends books out to hospital patients. Dawn not only volunteers her time to others but does so as a single parent, raising three kids all under 12, the youngest of whom is 10 months….
Here is my interview with Dawn:
Alison: Dawn, can you tell readers a little about the literacy program and the
community it serves?
Dawn: First Alison, I want to thank you for your generosity in donating a book to our program. I live in Dalton, Georgia yet our programs help clients across the United States. If we receive a request for books we will do our best to accommodate the request.
I help to operate a small non-profit organization which has a couple of different literacy programs. One program centers around adult recovering patients in local hospitals. We lend books to patients in the hospitals and before they go home they give then back to the nurse and the process continues on to other patients. I believe that this allows for patients to heal quicker by keeping their mind off of their injuries and/or pain.
The second program promotes literacy to lower income at-risk youth. We help to provide free books to children – particularly teenagers, who live in families that can’t afford to purchase books for their children. We feel that this helps to promote literacy and can take their imaginations and minds off of their current problems and issues, thus creating valuable literacy skills and memories.
Alison: What is the age range of the students you support and do you find that more boys than girls are in need of literacy support, or is it more evenly spread than that?
Dawn: We help children from 3-18 years of age. We find that both boys and girls need literacy support. Often times, the children that need help will surprise you – they are intelligent and have great personalities. Some children that we support, who are now citizens were born overseas and English is not their first language. They are not only learning to read, they must learn the English language as well. When a child like this receives help they then go home and teach their parents and grandparents to read as well.
Alison: Would you have any approximate statistics of how many people in your state or your town cannot read?
Dawn: I have not seen adequate studies concerning percentages of illiterate people in the state of Georgia. If I had to put an approximate number on it I would guess that 1 in 7 individuals either can not read or are reading at a much lower level then they should be.
Alison: And finally, can you tell us about your work where you lend books to hospital patients. I was visiting my local hospital recently and it got me thinking about how I would feel if I was a hospital patient and was desperate for a book to read. After all, when you are ill, you can’t exactly get up and walk to the nearest public library (if you are lucky enough to have one), can you?
Dawn: No Alison, once you are admitted you are pretty much stuck there. I contact local hospitals (or they contact us) and we offer books to patients who are healing from surgeries and illnesses. There are many people who either have no family or friends who come to visit them while they are in the hospital or they are admitted to the hospital expectantly. These are patients who sit by themselves for hours or days while their bodies heal. I feel like books can help keep their minds busy and allow their bodies to heal much quicker. As we all know, books can also allow us to escape our troubles and problems allowing our minds a chance to clear, relax, and renew. Believe it or not, many patients say they are eternally grateful for the service that we try to provide and often times we are told that we are the only visitors that have come to the patient’s room.
If you are reading this interview and would like to donate a book and help Dawn’s work in youth literacy or hospital program you can contact Dawn at:
You can also ship books or monetary donations to the organization’s address:
Wee Care Community Outreach Inc
C/O Dawn Lowery
2873 Wells Drive
Dalton, Georgia 30721
All donations made within the United States are 100% tax deductible Federal Tax ID Number: 20-5077011