People have told us they're using our sisterly banter to start conversations with others (family, friends, and even in classrooms), so Black created "Conversation Starters". Stay tuned as we'll be introducing new topics on a regular basis!
|I always thought that literacy was simply the ability to read and write, and didn't think much about it. Until Natasha was in elementary school and was struggling, and then I found out the hard way how critical those skills are, not only for being successful in school but in life. Interestingly, I learned that there are just over 200 words that are critical to being able to read (the Dolch list). Fast forward years later, when we found ourselves "teaching" financial literacy at KIPP, and although the word "literacy" was being used to describe understanding money and personal finance, I still didn't think much about it. But recently, I was shocked to learn that millions of people in this country can't read. And now, I'm hearing about "functional literacy" and things like digital literacy and even health literacy. It's all very confusing. Or, is "literacy" just the new "buzzword"?|
|As a literacy expert recently told us, "Literacy … there's
more to it." Functional Literacy takes the basic concept of
being able to read and write, and expands it to having the skills necessary to
manage daily living and employment tasks, and topics such as financial
literacy, digital literacy, and health literacy.|
I recently read a comprehensive, and inspiring, action plan, the Houston's Adult Literacy Blueprint, that was developed by the Mayor's Office for Adult Literacy (the only office of its kind in the nation) in partnership with the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation to break the cycle of poverty by improving the literacy skills of adults. The detailed plan is based on significant research and input from key stakeholders, and there is also an executive summary. However, I know I am the data geek, not you, but think that you will appreciate this quote from the study, "When parents teach children how to read, ask questions, solve problems, and ultimately navigate the world, they are developing the building blocks for academic and life success."
THE CONVERSATION STARTERS
- How would you describe functional literacy? What skills do you think are necessary to manage daily life? To be successful in the workplace?
- Have you or your family been personally affected by literacy issues or challenges? If so, how have they impacted your life?
- Obviously, becoming functionally literate has a profound effect on the individual. What are potential ripple effects?
- What can you and/or your company do to help reduce adult illiteracy?
Well, my younger daughter, Sawyer, is a high school senior. And it's November. Which means that we're in the midst of the college application process. It's exciting. It's also very stressful. So, I thought I'd share a few tips that I've recently learned in the hope you'll find them useful. But first a disclaimer!
I'm definitely not a college admissions expert and it's been decades since I applied to college. (I used a typewriter to complete my applications!) And even though this list isn't definitive, I think these items alone could make a big difference.
- LEAVE AMPLE TIME – Even if you can write an award-winning essay the night before it's due, you can't expect others to do the same.
- BE STRATEGIC – This critical first step is often overlooked. Decide what you want to highlight (experience, skills, personal traits, etc.), write them down, and then identify people who can talk about that side of you.
- SELECT PEOPLE WHO KNOW YOU WELL –The wider the range of people, the better. You're looking for people who know you so well, they can talk about your qualities in a way that brings you and your personal story (we all have one) "to life."
- REVIEW THE REQUIREMENTS – Letters of recommendation usually fall into two categories – Teachers and Other. However, different schools have different parameters, so check the instructions carefully.
- MAKE THE "ASK" – Let them know why you picked them, why you value their insight, what you'd love for them to focus on (most people appreciate some guidance vs. staring at a blank sheet of paper) and last, but not least, make sure you properly thank them!
- TRACK AND, IF NECESSARY, FOLLOW UP (nicely, of course) – Ok, please tell me this is self-explanatory.
- YOU'RE ACCEPTED INTO COLLEGE! – Send a thank you to everyone who took the time to write a letter for you. It can be a short note, but let them know they were an important part of the admissions process. Trust me, it will only take you a few minutes but it will be remembered by them for a very long time.
I wondered what Black thought about Letters of Recommendation, so I asked her. As always, she had a different perspective and provided insight as the person either writing or reviewing recommendation letters. She then commented that her thoughts might help you create a better "ask."
- It should be clear that the author of the letter knows the student and WHY they were selected to provide a recommendation.
- Academic achievements and technical skills are important, but emphasis should also be placed on soft skills (things like communication skills, leadership, problem solving, teamwork).
- Visually, the letter should be easy to skim and still identity key points.
Over the last month or so, I have been contacted by various people and organizations wondering how I managed to "teach" my 40+ year-old-sister about personal finance. (Yes, you can teach an old dog new tricks, especially if you are an even older dog.) It seems everyone is looking for a step-by-step guide or even lesson plans, but I realize the key to making smart financial decisions is to learn to talk to yourself. And then, if appropriate, expand the conversation to your significant other and/or family.
Upfront disclaimer: I am not a financial expert or a self-help guru. My sister had a crisis, and I did the best I could to help her. (OK, so I also turned it into a book, but that was because I thought it would make a good sitcom.) Which meant, much to her dismay, instead of giving her "answers" … I gave her questions. Lots of questions.
At the time, although Red and I love lists, I did not give her a list of questions, instead asking them when appropriate. However, I recently decided to compile a list of questions – some are ones I have asked my sister, some I have asked myself, while others appear in workbooks and curricula we developed for others. Different questions will resonate with different people, and you may come up with your own. (I did not include the entire list, as even I found it overwhelming.)
I appreciate that you may not want to answer these questions. So, how about a compromise? Just read through them. And, if you decide to answer any of them, you choose whether to talk to yourself, create a Word document to capture your answers (whether or not you ever plan to look back over it), or "journal" it.
The only rule? If you decide to answer a question, answer it honestly. And, if you do not like your answer, think about what you can do to change your behavior so that in the future you have a different (hopefully, better) answer.
- When Red initially tries to avoid learning about money, she uses the cliché "Ignorance is bliss," and I point out that "Ignorance is ignorance." Do you avoid money topics? If so, what is your reasoning?
- Have you ever felt overwhelmed (and frustrated) by a financial topic? Why? Was it the terminology? Did you think you needed a finance degree?
- Do you think being able to talk (not argue) about money is important in a relationship? Why is money such a difficult topic to discuss?
- Do you think your life would be different if you had a better understanding of personal finance? Why?
- Think of three childhood memories that involved money. Do they remind you of any current money behaviors?
- Think about the past and come up with five wonderful memories. What, if anything, did they cost?
People have told us they're using our sisterly banter to start conversations with others (family, friends, and even in classrooms), so Black created "Conversation Starters".
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|As a mom, over the years, I've had to become familiar with various
children's health issues and basic
healthcare (and don't get me started on health insurance). But whenever it was something more than the common
cold or flu, a stomach ache, or the usual scrapes and bruises, I felt like I
was back in school. And between the
terminology and trying to understand how the body works, I often felt like I
needed a nursing degree. Not to mention,
there's so much information on the internet, it can be overwhelming as well as confusing
and sometimes scary.
Over the years, I've also had to deal with my aging parent's more serious health issues, and I've lost count of the pages of notes I've taken and questions I've asked. Or the conversations discussing risks vs. benefits that I've had with medical professionals and my sister. (I'm glad Black finds statistics "fun" and can look at them unemotionally because they give me a headache.)
|Until recently, I had never heard the term "health literacy," and when I
first did, I initially thought about general literacy skills such as the
ability to read and understand numbers. Skills that are essential if you are sick and need health information
and services, but also impact health decisions that should be simple, like filling
out forms, taking over-the-counter drugs (aspirin, cold and flu remedies, etc.),
and learning about the things we should (or should not) do to live a healthier life
and reduce the chances of serious illness.
But then, I thought about how anytime I had to deal with a health issue, especially ones that could potentially be serious, it was a tedious, complicated, and technical challenge. And, at the risk of sounding arrogant, I like to consider myself well-read, pragmatic, and comfortable with numbers and research documents. In other words, although it impacts some people more than others, the issue of "health literacy" affects us all. (And, that does not even address what it does to the cost of healthcare.)
THE CONVERSATION STARTERS
- Before now, have you ever thought about "health literacy"? How would you describe it? What impact does it have on your life? How can it impact your ability to be successful in the workplace?
- Why do health and healthcare topics seem so daunting?
- Does health literacy only impact you when you are facing health issues? Explain your answer.
- Have you ever had a medical situation or condition that required you to learn more about it? Where did you seek information? Did you have any problems learning about it? Explain your answers.