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Advocates emphasize literacy as basic right, not just privilege

by susankirk
Thu, Jun 18th 2009 08:00 am
The Buffalo News  [ View Original Article ]
Advocates emphasize literacy as basic right, not just privilege
By Ja'Nay Carswell NERWS STAFF REPORTER

A piece of Buffalo will soon reach President Obama in Washington.

The president will receive the Declaration of Literacy and Justice for All and a set of resolutions from local and national literacy advocates who met during Saturday's Right to Literacy Convention.

The declaration was just one of several activities organized at the convention, sponsored by Read to Succeed Buffalo and Literacy Powerline.

Literacy experts, students and others from throughout the community gathered in the Hyatt Regency Buffalo to draw attention to low literacy rates plaguing the nation.

"Most people don't realize the issue of literacy in our country," said Marty Finsterbusch, executive director of Voice of Adult Learners United to Educate. "Literacy issues cut across race, gender and economics," he said.

The numbers are staggering. In Buffalo alone, 65,000 residents read at or below the fifth-grade level.

Across the nation, 30 million people older than 16 are considered functionally illiterate.

With literacy issues reaching crisis levels, the convention focused on literacy not as a privilege - but as a right.

"Literacy is not just an educational issue but a civil right issue," Finsterbusch said.

Saturday's gathering was modeled after the pivotal Convention for Women's Rights held in Seneca Falls in 1848.

It featured actors portraying Frederick Douglass, Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

Helene Kramer, director of Read to Succeed Buffalo, said advocates are fighting for every-one's right to literacy - just as the universality of women's rights was emphasized in Seneca Falls.

"One-hundred percent literacy with 100 percent community involvement," Kramer said, emphasizing the goals of literacy advocates.

To learn more about literacy issues or Read to Succeed Buffalo, visit the Web site www.ReadToSucceedBuffalo.org .

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