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Literacy is Powerful

My name is Milton Whitley. I am 57 years old and until five years ago, could barely read or write. School was especially hard for me. The teacher used to spank me with a big stick when I didn’t know something. It put fear in my heart and made it hard for me to learn. People called me retarded. I believed I was retarded. I dropped out of school when I was 14. Didn’t know what to do because I couldn’t read or write. For a long time, I worked in a sign shop installing signs. But, when I hung these signs I didn’t even know what they were saying. If one letter was off, if it was spelled wrong, I didn’t even know. Not knowing how to read or write made everything difficult. It made me boil with anger inside. I was using drugs. I got with people just like me; used drugs; no education. I didn’t care about education. All I knew were slang words. Street language. One time, I was given a form to fill out at a doctor’s office. I couldn’t read a word. I sat in my chair staring at the paper for a long

Renee Moore's Learning Story

One of the most powerful learning experiences I've had in twenty years of teaching was also one of the most serendipitous. It began in 1994 after a chance meeting that summer of a few Mississippi teachers at Bread Loaf School of English campus in Vermont and a young teacher from Soweto, South Africa. That all of us found ourselves in the same small, but wonderful graduate program in rural Vermont was amazing enough. However, Bread Loaf teachers are encouraged to connect their classes during the school year. We decided we wanted our students to use literature to make the historical connections between the 30th anniversary of the Freedom summer civil rights activities in Mississippi and the first democratic elections taking place that year in South Africa. Thus, the Mississippi/South Africa Freedom Project was born. Ultimately, the project included nine different teachers and their classrooms across Mississippi, with students ranging from grades 6 ' 12, and an all girls' school in Soweto. We read two novels: Mildred Taylor's "Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry", and "Waiting for the Rain", by Sheila Gordon. Students in all ten locations read both novels and engaged in many classroom activities appropriate for their grade level

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