UW Combined Fund Drive

November 13, 2021

Encouraging Literacy at any Age

It’s hard for me to imagine inhabiting a world without reading, without books and literature. Yet, this world was very close to home nearly all my adult life as my father was functionally illiterate.

While my mother was a reader and a school teacher, dad struggled to read with comprehension and retention for decades, even with the loving and patient tutelage of his wife.

Let’s be clear – technically, dad could read. Just hand him something and he could read it out loud, maybe occasionally stumbling over some things, but when it came to remembering and understanding, this was often nearly a zero. This proved problematic sometimes in his inspector role at Boeing when tasked with poring through a new manual, with mom usually over his shoulder, aiding.

I have to attribute this to his growing up during the Depression of the 1930s, whereby his brothers and one sister were farmed out to either relatives or to an orphanage, as their father was unable to care for his 7 children, due to losing the family citrus farm. Dad attended many different schools and I think never really had the chance to become grounded.

A smart guy, he covered for his lack of literacy well and was quick to figure things out. One exception was the time he (we) were putting together a ready-to-assemble storage shed, and not having first read the instruction booklet, put it together backwards. Guess who (!) jumped in to take it apart and re-assemble. “Dad, you didn’t read the instruction book! It’s backward!” — which we only found out when the doors would not fit.

Sadly, I think dad never read a book in his life, not one.

Yet, toward the end of this life, he took great pride in reading signs. Road signs, business signs, billboards, etc.  And I recall one time being in his living room with him, and he took up a magazine, read one article as a “reader” to great success.

With my father’s journey in mind, I wholeheartedly encourage everyone to grow your reading skills, or the reading skills of someone you know that may be struggling with reading and who may be missing out on the joy of diving into a good read.


Consider making a  one-time contribution or setting up payroll deduction to one of our CFD member organizations working to encourage and support the pursuit of literacy in our communities:

CAMP READ-A-RAMA (charity code 1482952): Camp Read-a-Rama is a non-profit that uses books for children and young adults as the springboard for all program activities. We provide fully-engaged year-round programming that seeks to improve literacy, particularly for children most in need of literacy intervention. Read-a-Rama programs are research-based and employ data to inform literacy and social emotional best practices.

Child Aid (charity code 0456567): Child Aids mission is to create opportunity for Latin Americas rural and indigenous poor through childhood literacy programs. Each year, we help hundreds of teachers in remote villages more effectively teach children to read. We deliver tens of thousands of children’s books to neglected schools and libraries. We create and improve community libraries and train librarians to be promoters of reading in their villages.

Deaf Children’s Literacy Project: Most deaf children are behind in English language and literacy. Reading opens the door to their future. Give them the power of English to succeed.

KCLS Foundation (charity code 0315694): The KCLS Foundation promotes literacy, learning, and libraries by providing support beyond public funding for initiatives and resources that enable the King County Library System to better serve the needs of our community.

Literacy Source, A Community Learning Center (charity code 1478513): Building literate communities and promoting self-sufficiency by providing learner-centered instruction to adults in English literacy and basic life skills.

Pacific Education Institute (charity code 1481059): Our mission is to advance science literacy and deepen student engagement by empowering educators to teach real-world science, outdoors. Our Vision is scientifically literate citizens making balanced decisions for a thriving future.

Pierce County Library Foundation (charity code 1480040): Pierce County Library Foundation is the philanthropic arm of the Pierce County Library System. The Foundation raises funds to support innovative literacy programs, outreach services and expand the library’s collection of books and resources.

Raising A Reader: Raising A Reader is an early literacy organization helping families of children aged 0-8 develop, practice, and sustain home-based literacy routines critical for school success.

Seattle Public Library Foundation (charity code 0329910): The Seattle Public Library Foundation raises funds to provide additional Library resources, programs and services that go above and beyond what public funding provides and enables the Library to be a vital, relevant community resource for everyone.

Contributed by Dean Speer, UWCFD Senior Campaign Assistant
“During the 2020 UWCFD Campaign, I so enjoyed the creativity and selflessness expressed by everyone, both on the UWCFD team and across the campus with cheerful coordinators and departments that found new ways to engage and contribute back to our communities. Returning to this role now in 2021 (for my fifth year!) I expect to build upon what we learned last year and am excited to see how our successes will play out this fall. Tackle me for questions, speaking opportunities, and materials. Thank you for ‘Giving for Good’!”