Friday, December 16, 2016

Teasers: Stories from our 2016 Adult Learner Writings

See what thoughts books can evoke
2016 Adult Learner Writings
Below are three stories from learners who are long-time members of our DiverseCity Writing Series Groups with SLCC Community Writing Center. Their stories were published in 2016 Adult Learners Writing (our annual collection of learners' original stories) published in April 2016. Do you want to read more? Stop by for a copy of this year's book. 


Utah State Capitol
By Paul Rosser
     I went with my mom, dad, sister, and brothers in my mom's car five times to the State Capitol in the 1960's to have lunch on the grass. We had fun. We only went inside the building once to look around at things. We saw Ab Jenkin's Salt Flats car.
     Also in the 1960's, my friends and I walked around the State Capitol to hike the mountains. One winter, we drove up there in the car to spin donuts in the parking lot behind it.
     In 2014, my tutor  and I went to the State Capitol  to see the things inside the building. On the first floor, we saw pictures of pioneers, explorers, Indians, governors, golden spike, and movies made in Utah.
     I saw that the floor was made out of tile. Some of the tiles were chipped or cracked and some were whole. All of the damaged tiles were being replaced with new tiles. At the time I took the tour, half of the tiles had been replaced and the work was continuing.  
     We met the head caretaker, too. He told us about the building. He told us the building was earthquake proofed. He showed us a replica of the 265 base isolators underneath the building. He also told us about the walls on the first floor. The walls used to be painted white. When they took the paint off, they found the original limestone. They sealed the limestone walls instead of painting them.
     We also walked around the outside of the building to see the flowers, statues, and the Utah flag. The grass was beautiful because they keep it cut.
     The State Capitol was interesting to see. I liked seeing the things inside, like the pictures, tiles, and limestone walls. The outside of the building was beautiful, too. Being at the State Capitol with my family and friends was fun.


American Privileges
By Julie Liljenquist
     On Monday morning, I was privileged enough to be watching television.  A live news break on CNN showed President Barack Obama giving Edward Byers, a Navy SEAL, the Medal of Honor. Because CNN broke away from the campaign trails, I was privileged enough to see this man receive the highest award possible for a serviceman. He received this medal for rescuing an American civilian who had been captured by the Taliban in Afghanistan. Facing certain death, Edward Byers risked his life to save this person by covering him with his own body. None of the other hostages survived.
     Watching Obama put the medal around Mr. Byers' neck, I knew the country was going to be OK. At least for the time being, I didn't worry about Donald Trump getting elected president. I just thought about how privileged we are as Americans to be able to have soldiers who fight for our freedom. I was also grateful to not have to watch any more of the presidential campaigning for a few minutes.


The “Adventure” I will Never Forget
By Trudy Parrott
     Our adventure started on a hot summer day in 1980 when my brother Danny, my sons Gilberto and Israel, our friends Roger and Mike, and I decided to move to Douglas, Georgia, from Marion, Ohio.  We were tired of living in Ohio and being on welfare. Roger said he had a two-bedroom mobile home down in Georgia, and no one was living in it. Our friend told us that we all could get jobs and live well.  So, why not! We packed up what we could into my station wagon and started off.  I had never been in Georgia, but Roger and Mike made everything sound so good.  Living in Douglas couldn't be no worse than living in Marion.
     Along the way, I asked Roger and Mike, “Are there a lot of Black people and Black churches in Douglas?” I wanted to know because that's the kind of church I preferred. They looked at each other, and Roger said, “Maybe, a dozen Black people. And, maybe one church or so. But, not very many.”
     Later that day, we turned off the interstate, headed toward Douglas.   About half a mile from town, guess what I saw!  A house on the left side of the road had at least twenty Black people in the front yard.  I then said, “I thought you guys said maybe a dozen in the whole town, Roger!”  He said, “Well, that's what I thought.”
     As we came into town, I saw a few more Black guys going into Circle K. I jokingly said to Roger and Mike, “Are there any White people here? Because all I've seen is Black people!” They just smiled at me. They had me pull into Circle K to get drinks and chips. I asked if we could go to a grocery store to get some real food for supper. Roger said we would have to get something here because it was past 7 P.M. I asked, “Why???” He said Circle K was the only store open at that time of night. I replied, “It's only a little after 7!” Roger said, “I know, but all stores close at 7 P.M. And, on Sundays stores don't open at all.” So I bought some hot dogs, buns, and mustard before we headed north out of town.
     About ten miles out of Douglas, we came upon a dirt road that led to a small trailer court. The sky was just starting to get dark when we turned into the driveway of a dark trailer. The trailer was not locked, so we all went inside.  On the kitchen table were a few oil lamps with oil in them. The guys lit them, and we walked through the trailer.  Exploring the empty trailer with oil lamps was scary because of the way the lamps made shadows on the walls.
     Since the trailer had been empty for over two years, everything was dusty, even the beds, but the beds were all made. The kitchen had plenty of dishes and a clothes washer. And, the water was on. But, the trailer had no power.  We had to make a campfire outside, so we could roast hot dogs on sticks over the fire. The boys loved that.
     The next day, we got the power turned on and bought gas for the trailer. The gas cost over $600 to fill up the giant oblong tank in the back of the trailer. The gas delivery company told us that the gas in the tank should last until spring.
     With the power on, we were able to go to the grocery store the next day to buy food. Douglas had only two grocery stores in the whole town. One was called Winn Dixie and the other was Piggly Wiggly. The fact that the whole town closed at 7 PM was so weird to me.
     The next morning I made breakfast, and I fixed lunches for the three guys to take with them to look for work.  As the sun came up, the guys walked out to the road to hitchhike into town to look for work. The first truck that came by picked them up. My boys and I stayed at the trailer, so I could air it out, clean it up, and make it homey.  The guys were gone all day. The sky was almost dark when a truck pulled up at the edge of the trailer court and dropped them off.
     I had made a pot of beans, some fry bread and fried potatoes for supper.  The guys were real tired and sunburned. They had worked on a watermelon field all day, and they each made $25.00. They ate and showered and went to bed.
     The following weeks, we all had work almost every day. My sons went with me and played with all the other workers’ kids. If we didn't have field work, we would go to town and try and rake a rich person's yard. Raking would take us about six hours and $20.00 was our pay for all of us.
     We did migrant kind of work. Most of the time we worked together in the same field but not side by side. We only worked in a cotton field once. Each cotton ball is in a boll, and the tips of the boll were sharp and pointy.  You have to pull the four tips apart to get to the boll open wide enough so you can pull out the cotton. The tips of the boll poke your fingertips until they bleed.  It's not worth $20.00 a day.
     We worked on a chicken farm that housed thousands of chickens. The building had thousands of cages with one chicken in each; however, once in a while you could find two chickens in one cage. The cages were stacked three high on both sides of the walkway. The top row was about eight inches back from the bottom row. The middle rows were about four inches closer to you, and the bottom was even with the sidewalk. My job was to gather the eggs. I pushed a cart along the walkway, grabbing eggs first from the top cages, then the middle cages, and finally from the bottom cages on both sides of the walkway at the same time as I pushed the cart with my stomach. Sometimes I would get cut from a sharp piece of the cage as I grabbed an egg or the chicken would peck me.  At times, the cart was hard to push because of all the chicken poop caught up in the wheels of the cart.
     About every three days, the farmer drove a small tractor, with its plow down, down each row to keep the poop off the sidewalk so the carts could move easier. I was never surprised to see a big rat run in front of my cart in the poop with a big black rat snake chasing it. This mostly happened when the poop was deep over the row. One time, Mike was allowed to drive the tractor. Because he wasn't paying attention and going too fast, he didn't stop early enough and ended up flipping the tractor at the end of a row into the giant pile of poop. Oh, how Mike smelled.
     My sons often helped me wash the dirtiest eggs.  One day, they found a hurt chicken, and they spent most of their time with it, giving it extra food.  My boys always had some kids to play with, too.  I never had any problems getting them to bed. We made $25.00 a day for that job, and they let us take a case of eggs home each week. A case contains twenty-four flats, or 720, eggs. So, we had a lot of eggs to eat. Before taking this job, I didn't know that only the dirtiest eggs get washed and that eggs don't have to be refrigerated, but now I know.
     One week, we all picked pecans off of trees.  For each five gallon bucket we filled, we got $5.00. At the end of the day, we could take a bucket of them home. Another week, we worked on a dairy farm. We milked cows with milking machines, and there were a lot of cows. We started around five A.M. and worked way into the afternoon. The boss' wife would make lunch for all the workers. When it was ready, she rang the triangle that hung on the porch so we all could hear it. Lunch consisted of “you know it” steak, potatoes, gravy, corn on the cob, pecan pie, and cold milk. We got payed $25.00 each. We took a few gallons of milk home each day we worked.
     We harvested watermelons one week. It's hard work because you have to bend to check the watermelon on the ground. If it's ready to be picked, then you twisted it off the vine and laid it on the ground. The next person picked up and threw it to the catcher. The catcher, the person walking next to the moving truck, threw the watermelon to the person standing on the back of the truck. The person on the back of the truck was catching the melons from both sides of the truck. Sometimes that person missed the toss or dropped the melon, so we were able to eat those watermelons in the field. Because the fields were full of insects, eating cracked watermelons meant that you had to fight bees and flies and wear sticky clothes for the rest of the day. But, we could take a few home each day.
     Another job was picking yellow squash. They had hair-like stickers all over them and on the vine that you had to pick them from.  It was best to wear gloves and a white long-sleeve shirt with a long tail that covered your butt because you were bending all day long and the sunburn really hurts your lower back for days.
     The last job that I can think of was working in a tobacco field. That was a sticky job, too.  The big leaves were sticky, and the big green tobacco worms would stick to you also.  You had to ride on this machine that is very low to the ground with seats on both sides. As the machine moved slowly between rows, you had to pull off the bottom leaves on each plant and put them on the conveyor belt in front of you. The boss had us rotate places at the end of each row.  They let us take one leaf home every night. That one leaf made three or four packs of smokes after drying it out.
     Some weeks two of the guys milked cows, one gathered eggs, and the boys and I walked down the sides of the road and picked wild blackberries.  The boys washed the berries and ate as much as they could when I wasn't looking. I would know when they did because their fingers and lips would turn blackish.  I made blackberry dumplings for dessert that night and put some of them in a bowl and sprinkle sugar on them so they would be ready for snack the next day.  A few times, we each worked different jobs. That had its advantages because at the end of the day each of us brought some of what we picked or did home. We had plenty milk, eggs, vegetables, pecans, watermelon and steaks for weeks. Never had to worry about bringing lunches because the people we worked for always brought lunches for everyone, even the kids. We never had to drive to work because the boss picked us up and dropped us back off.
     Each day, twenty to fifty people worked the fields. They paid us daily. The sad thing was that if you were White, you made $25.00 a day. If you were Mexican or Black, you got paid $20.00 a day.
    When we had days off we would just rest, have a BBQ, go fishing, go to the movies or go swimming. Gilberto and Israel loved to go swimming.  The town did not have a public pool so we had to walk or hitchhike to a swimming hole. Most of the time while we were swimming a herd of cows would come through, and we would just move out of their way.  By the time we headed home, we had dried on mud in our hair and mud pies (cow poop) between our toes, but we all had fun.  We had to spray ourselves off with the hose before we could go inside to take a shower.  Whatever clothes we wore swimming, we used them every time because Georgia doesn't have dirt. Georgia has red clay, and this clay doesn't come out.
     I believe life in Georgia was OK. The people were nice. They treated us as part of their families.  Gilberto and Israel had lots of friends to play with and made money when they wanted to work.  The work days were very long, pay wasn't good, but when all four of us worked we earned a hundred dollars a day, plus we had a lot of good food that didn't cost us anything.  Roger and Mike were right about jobs, but I don't know about living well because we worked a lot. Gilberto and Israel loved it there because they made money, played a lot, went swimming and fishing, had a lot of friends, and did boy stuff. I believe I would go back there to live now since I have monthly income to enjoy the peacefulness and friendliness.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Founding Leaders: Birth Places

Revolutionary War map from
Revolutionary War map from

This week we talked about how everyone in the early years of the New World was either:

a. a native (that is, an Indian), 
b. an immigrant from another country, or 
c. a captive forced to live here.

As such, this conversation led to our speculation about the birth places of eight of our founding leaders: George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, Aaron Burr, and Alexander Hamilton.

We took a poll: Where were these eight men born?
a. all eight were born in the U.S.
b. four or more were born in U.S.
c. three or less were born in the U.S.
d. none of the eight were born in the U.S.

In two weeks, we'll reveal our results.
Meanwhile, where do you stand on this question?

Connecting with Our Founding Leaders

The debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is alive at our center. This ongoing discussion recently led to our Wednesday morning group posing questions like:

"Who started our government?" 
"How did they start our government?" 
"What are political parties all about?"

Documents that define the underpinnings of our US government
Three historical documents that frame today's US government

We are focusing the first part of our exploration on eight founding leadersGeorge Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, Aaron Burr, and Alexander Hamilton (taken from Richard Morris' book Seven Who Shaped Our Destiny: The Founding Fathers as Revolutionaries and Joseph Ellis' book Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation).

Step 1. Last week, we brainstormed what we wanted to know about these men. Our questions, typed into google docs, included: 

Birth-Death dates, Birth place, Occupations, Family relationships, Wealth, Hobbies, What famous for? Invent anything? Voted offices held, Slaves - Owner? For or against slavery? Role in Declaration of Independence, Role in Revolutionary War, Role in Articles of Confederation, Role in Constitution, Which ones were friends? Which ones were enemies?

Step 2. Yesterday, in small, self-assigned groups, they sought answers. Learners used books and websites. They examined the authority behind the texts (sites) to ensure that they were using only reliable sources. Then they read, discussed their answers to the questions, and typed them into our shared google document. 

Did everyone have the skills to read the texts? No. In fact, about 1/4 of the learners struggled reading words like "the." They were partnered however with learners who could read the words. Another member of each group had some computer skills. A (volunteer) tutor also teamed up with the groups to help with harder words and digging information out of the text. The groups had to work together to complete the task.

Where they engaged? Absolutely. The buzz in the room was extremely focused. Members in some groups even shared what they learned with other groups when they found that their leaders connected in some way. What was supposed to last about 30 minutes turned into a 2-hour segment.

Step 3. In two weeks, we'll check in to see what information was found and what is needed. Then, we'll decide together how to share this information with each other to have some interesting conversations. Will our findings bring us back to Hillary and Donald? Check back with us in a few weeks to see what happened next.



Why are we, an adult literacy organization, reading books and websites about founding leaders, especially when some learners struggle with "the"? 

Simple answer - the group asked to read and learn about these individuals. They wanted to know something. Individually, this group has never used printed texts to answer questions. They lack experience posing and researching questions. These group activities allow these adults to learn much more than just decoding and interpreting words. 

Our charge is to ensure that all learners are college-career ready when they leave us to move on to the next phase of their lives! This means our learners need to build their abilities to the point where they can read complex informational texts, analyze and synthesize evidence in texts, and build and express their knowledge by writing expository texts

This charge requires that we engage all of our learners - including those with the least amount of literacy skills. We've found that their engagement in these activities actually helps to increase their word knowledge at a faster rate than just sticking to low-literacy texts.

Monday, August 29, 2016

SLC Adult New Readers Book Group Dilemma

You're on the book selection committee. 
You have to make a choice. 
Which book would you choose? 

Sarah, Plain & Tall 
by Patricia MacLachlan

26 Fairmount Avenue 
by Tomie dePaolo

Bunnicula: A Rabbit-Tale of Mystery 
by Deborah & James Howe


Only one of these books won. Which one?
Which book would you choose?

That was our dilemma. Which book? 
How would we choose?

Since speed dating worked so well for us in the past, we decided to do it again. This time under Salt Lake City librarian Stephanie Goodliffe's direction.

Seven learners speed-dated the three books pictured above. The readers' goal was to select the first book to be read by the New Readers Book Group. (See details at the bottom of this blog.)

First, the readers came up with their criteria for a "good book." They developed a list of 5 must-haves: a plot that captured their interest, a hook that kept them turning the pages, a story-line that inspired them, a set of problems that they could relate to, and a group of characters who were life-like. Their rating scale was:
One reader rates a book.

A. plot - (1) don't like it; (3) ok; (5) love it
B. hook - (1) nothing grabbed me; (3) ok; (5) can't put the book down
C. inspires - (1) no; (3) ok; (5) feels good
D. problems - (1) can't relate; (3) ok; (5) can relate
E. characters - (1) don't like them; (3) ok; (5) like them

Either in pairs or individually, readers spent 7 minutes with each book. This time was focused on reading the dust jacket, the table of contents, and the first page of the book. At the end of 7 minutes, the readers recorded their scores.

Which score look like the winner to you?
Stephanie tallies the data.
After everyone dated each book, Stephanie and David compiled the scores on the board. Rather than tally all five categories, the group narrowed their examination to only the plot and hook. Their results were:

                      Plot*     Hook*
Sarah             4.0          4.0
Bunnicula       3.8          3.2
(*scores were averages)

Based on these two criteria, Sarah, Plain & Tall was the winner. The numbers were as plain as day, but the group wasn't quite satisfied with the results.

An alternative was offered by one group member - count how many 5's were listed for each book in the plot category only.

When they looked specifically at this set of numbers (Sarah three 5's & Bunnicula four 5's), Bunnicula: A Rabbit-Tale of Mystery was declared the winner.

Read Bunnicula: A Rabbit-Tale of Mystery
Beginning Monday, September 19, 2016

This group, co-sponsored by The City Library, Friends of The City Library, and Literacy Action Center, will meet 1st and 3rd Mondays of each month (beginning Monday, September 19th, 2016) from 4:30-6:00 PM in Conference Room D at the Main branch (210 East 400 South, SLC). 

Call Stephanie at 801-322-8131 or Deb at 801-265-9081 to enroll in this group. 

New Readers Book Group is Free 

and Open to the Public!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Annual Benefit 8/25/16 - Are you coming?

A Benefit for Literacy Action Center

beautiful scene of trees and snow celebrate HOWL Susan Imhoff Bird's latest novel
Hear Susan's tale.

An Evening of 

Nature & Art with...

Susan Imhoff Bird

Thursday, August 25, 2016

   6:00 - 9:00 PM

Pilar Pobil's Garden

 in the lower Avenues (403 Eighth Avenue), SLC

Contribution of $50/person by 8/22/16

(Or $65/person contribution at the door)

Mail checks to Literacy Action Center
3595 S Main Street, Salt Lake City UT 84115
(Or Call for Reservations today at 801/265-9081)


We greatly appreciation your support!

For event updates, check with this blog daily
or send your email to 


Other donations for the event include:

Auction: Silent & Live auction from local contributors.

Eats: Red Food Truck, Cannella's Restaurant & Lounge, 

          Pizza Hut

Music: Kevin Christiansen, accordian

Vintage China & Linens: Blue Bird Vintage Rentals

Garden: Pilar Poblil Legacy Foundation

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Health materials: Blood pressure & "feet flat"

See how people responded to the words - put your feet flat on the floor.
How do you interpret the words "rest your feet flat on the floor?"

Wow! As writers, we put words on paper. If we want to understand the impact of our words on our intended audience, however, we’ve got to listen to their interpretations and watch their responses.

This month, as part of our health materials project, we read through a set of blood pressure instructions. (See New Health Project for details.) The instructions were meant to inform us on how to take our blood pressures at home. So, words like vital, accurate, wrinkles, and non-dominant were predictable discussion stoppers.

Expressions like “rest both feet flat on the floor” seemed simple and obvious, until we asked everyone to put their feet flat on the floor. When we checked under the table, more than half of the people’s feet were positioned with heels touching the floor and toes pointing in the air.

Another phrase that generated many interpretations was “don’t take your blood pressure within a half hour of eating.” And, the phrase “back supported” was popularly interpreted as either lying in bed or stretched out in a chair.

These discussions reiterate the importance of never assuming that just because we understand what we write that our audience will make the same interpretations.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Working with Numbers

Place Value. 

Simple concept? Not for us.

When 312.07 - 67.2 is easily written as

 3 1 2 . 0 7
-      6  1 . 2

then we know we've got work to do.

How would you explain how to line up in the numbers in the problem 6 - 1.2 or 54.63-9.7?

How do you explain "line up the numbers?"

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

How do you make the Best Quality Hard-Boiled Eggs?

What's your recipe for the best hard-boiled eggs?

Almost everyone has one. We did, too.

Our Friday group wanted to examine science and food. So, what better way to engage everyone in the scientific method? We started with something we all knew - boiling water and eggs. And, we all had something to say - either from personal experience or observation.

What did we do? We worked through the scientific method to set up our experiments - three tried-and-true recipes for making the best quality hard-boiled eggs.

Here's the Scientific Method that we followed:
1. Observe. Ask questions.
2. Do background research.
3. Construct hypothesis. (What do we think will happen?)
4. Test hypothesis. (Do the experiment. Collect and organize data.)
5. Analyze data. Draw conclusions.
6. Share results. 

Our experiments were three hard-boiled egg recipes: two from learners and one from

Like all good experiments, we made a hypothesis. We hypothesized which of the three recipes would produce the best quality hard-boiled egg. 

See the photos resulting from our experiment. Which recipe do you think we picked before we conducted the experiment? Which recipe do you think was the winner? 

To read our full report - our recipes, design process, methods, and discussion, click on this link to our June 20-24, 2016 lesson screen on our learner website. On the learner website, scroll to the files below the Friday entry, then click on Food Science.Boiled Egg

How did our recipes stack up to your best boiled-egg recipe?
Do you agree with our interpretations and conclusions?
Please comment below.

Monday, June 20, 2016

New Project: Health Materials

Ever wanted to know why health materials are written as they are? You know, those intense instructional tomes given to you at your doctor's office that you struggle over to figure out what you need to do next to better care for yourself.

A few of our learners are about to find out. They are going to provide feedback on health documents for a major local healthcare system.

One of our first tasks will be a two-page document. The content is currently unknown, but the excitement is mounting.

What health materials from your medical professionals would you revise? Why? How?

Health tools

Friday, June 17, 2016

Speed Dating

Yes, you read the title right...speed dating.

Now you're thinking, "What's an adult literacy organization got to do with speed dating?"

We were speed dating books!

Here's what happened...

Recently, our Wednesday afternoon group finished reading Getting Unstuck: Breaking Through Your Barriers to Change by Dr. Sydney Simon. Our next step was to select another book.

By the next week, we'd gathered fourteen possible books from which to choose our next group book. Well, how would you get twenty people to decide on one book? Would you dare to judge each book by its cover? Maybe. We decided a fairer way however was to speed date the books.

Round One

So, twenty of us spent an hour of our next session speed dating fourteen books.

We began by setting up our criteria. We all agreed that our next "read" had to be:
1) readable - we could pronounce most of the words and understand their meanings
2) helpful - the information would contribute to each of our personal lives in some way
3) interesting - the writing was not boring

In pairs (or in some cases as individuals), we examined each book one at a time for three minutes each for these three criteria. All daters agreed to at least minimally use the three minutes to examine the title, front and back covers, page 1 of the text, and the table of contents. Each dater had to decide if the dater made a connection with the content of the text and read a paragraph to feel if the text grabbed the dater's attention.

At the end of the three minutes, each dater rated each book. We developed the following rating scale:
1 = BAD - No way will I read this book.
2 = MAYBE - I might read it if I'm forced to read it.
3 = OK - I can deal with this book if it is chosen.
4 = I LIKE IT - I'll read it.
Image result for four agreements book
The Final Winner
5 = EXCELLENT - This is it. I love it! Let's read this book.

We followed this process six times, meaning that each dater examined only six of the fourteen books.

Because not everyone dated all fourteen books, we reported the ratings for each book based on the number of daters (reviewers). From the computed fractions, we figured the percentages. From the percentages, we decided that only books with 50% or higher could move into Round Two. The list for Round Two narrowed to seven books.

Round Two

One week later, we followed the same rules and ensured that all daters gave input. Based on the final count, The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz won hands down.


Choosing our next book by speed dating and rating our "dates" engaged all of us in the book selection process. Everyone at least appears happy with the final choice and interested in participating in the group reading.