February 15, 2017

Today we look at the importance of literacy and bring you discussions with Jason Mewes, Adriana Munguia of Celerity Octavia Charter School, our Peace Fund Radio Hero of the Week Jen Rubino and Beanstalk, a London-based nonprofit and a leading member of campaigns to improve literacy across the UK and Europe.

“2/3 of students who cannot read proficiently by the end of the 4th grade will end up in jail or on welfare.”

Imagine not being able to read a prescription drug label, open a bank account or get a credit card, read street signs or navigate public transportation or even understand job directions.

Illiteracy has tremendous consequences that affect our entire society.

Reading specialists and educators have long known that literacy - the ability to read and write - is tied to everything we do and that connections in social situations and practices are very important in developing literacy skills in children.

Children who cannot read do not receive the education that they need. They cannot read their textbooks, and they may not be able to comprehend their homework and tests. Many kids with no literacy or poor literacy do not graduate from high school.

Many low-income children arrive at school already behind in communication and language, a disadvantage that only persists over time.  

Sadly, two-thirds of America's children living in poverty have no books at home, and the number of families living in poverty continues to rise. Many libraries are being forced to close or reduce their operating hours. Children who do not have access to books or read regularly are vulnerable to falling behind in school.

Jason Mewes Brings Peter Pan to Life
Jason Mewes Brings Peter Pan to Life

Jason recently volunteered his time to support The Peace Fund's Interactive Storytelling Program where he entertained students at Celerity Octavia Charter School in Los Angeles with his telling of the Disney book, Peter Pan.  The Peace Fund has found this Storytelling platform to be active and in-the-moment. It engages children's full imagination and full creativity - hopefully instilling in them a passion for reading.  The celebrities who participate have all found the experience gratifying.

Jason is known for his work in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Clerks, Clerks II, Mallrats, Vigilante Diaries and many more.  

Adrian had the opportunity to talk with Jason during the event at Celerity Octavia Charter School.

While attending The Peace Fund's Interactive Storytelling event at Celerity Octavia Charter School, Adrian sat down with Adriana Munguia.  

The Celerity Educational Group is a non-profit organization, that serves Los Angeles-area schools, children and families. Their mission is to provide quality education in under-served communities by creating alternative schools that focus on the potential of every child.  Their first school opened in September 2005. 

Celerity Octavia Charter School is a learning community that offers a safer and conducive learning environment because students feel included, nurtured, and connected to caring adults.

They believe that all students will thrive at Celerity Octavia and rise to meet the high expectations that are set on a daily basis.

Beanstalk Readers
Beanstalk Readers

The statistics of literacy in the UK are also shocking: 

While traveling in London, Adrian visited Beanstalk, a nonprofit that is making a difference in the fight against illiteracy.  

Beanstalk was founded by their President, Susan Belgrave, in 1973. They were originally called Volunteer Reading Help and became Beanstalk in 2012 in time for their 40th anniversary.

Susan saw a volunteering scheme in action in a Harlem school in New York. Impressed by the results she decided to set up a similar scheme in schools in North Kensington.  Since then, Beanstalk has gone from strength-to-strength. They have grown from a handful of volunteers to a network of almost 3,100 trained reading helpers supporting approximately 11,000 children across England.

Thanks to their volunteers, Beanstalk is now a respected voice in the children's literacy landscape and is a leading member of campaigns to improve literacy across the UK and Europe.

Jen Rubino at Card Making Event
Jen Rubino at Card Making Event

On today's Hero of the Week segment, we're checking in with a friend we first met on our April 24, 2013 show. She's Jen Rubino, and her own experiences with multiple hospitalizations and surgeries inspired her to found Cards for Hospitalized Kids(CFHK) to spread hope, joy, and magic to hospitalized kids across America through handmade cards sent by kids and groups from around the globe. 

As the founder of CFHK, Jen is able to combine her own experience as a patient and her desire to help others in a way that allows her to help children across America who are facing what she has faced.  Together with help from individuals and groups across the U.S., Cards for Hospitalized Kids is impacting thousands of hospitalized kids.  Lifting others up through CFHK has allowed Jen to lift herself up as well and, chronic illness or not, she knows it will be the same for everyone who gets involved with CFHK.

CFHK continues to grow and the number of cards that they receive grows every year. This past Christmas, Jen said they received at least 10,000 cards.  This year Jen plans on gaining more celebrity supporters, reaching new hospitals and Ronald McDonald Houses. 

Jen is now a sophomore studying International Affairs at George Washington University (GWU) in DC.