By J. Keith Lyons

The phrase may seem trite, but “Literacy for All” carries a tremendous amount of connotation when truly considered. Whose voices are represented? Does it truly reflect all individuals? All entities? What geographic, social, ethnic and economic statuses are referenced? Does literacy really mean all academic disciplines?

Does ALL mean ALL?

The Kentucky Literacy Celebration (KLC) is a platform that fully embraces the phrase as an inclusive one. Originating from a mere idea in 2010 to highlight many of the great strides Kentucky has achieved in literacy across the Commonwealth, KLC has served as a celebratory event in which to share the many successes throughout the state.

All across Kentucky – from Paducah to Pikeville, Covington to Cumberland, Owensboro to Owingsville and Fulton to Frankfort – literacy efforts have been showcased in a myriad of forms. Schools, early childhood centers, public libraries, adult education centers, businesses and communities have developed various projects and encouraged learning to promote literacy as a foundational right for everyone.

Literacy is not confined to reading and writing, as true learning also involves listening, speaking and thinking. These are desirable traits for promoting our learners’ growth, expanding our economic workforce and advancing our prospects in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. With a more literate population, our state prospers in all aspects of knowledge, economy and citizenship.

Our state has achieved much success in and out of the classroom – and literacy is the key.

“When it comes to the correlation between poverty and literacy, Kentucky has beat the odds,” said George Hruby, executive director of the Collaborative Center for Literacy Development at the University of Kentucky. “Back in the 1980s, Kentucky was among the lowest performing states in the union on the 4th- and 8th-grade NAEP reading test. Today, although the 5th poorest state in the union, Kentucky has the 9th highest 4th-grade reading scores and 18th highest 8th-grade scores.

“Compare that to Tennessee: less poor, but their reading scores place in the bottom half of states. Additionally, 40 percent of Kentucky’s 4th-grade readers are scoring at proficient or above (reading above grade level). Nationally it’s 36 percent; Tennessee is 33 percent. This didn’t happen overnight. It was a slow and steady improvement over 35 years, rising above the national mean in 2003.”

Kentucky has risen from the bottom of multiple national literacy achievement rankings to take its place as an educational leader in the country. KLC started as a way to counteract the prevailing stigma of illiteracy and its consequences within the state. The accomplishments of Kentucky education need to be proclaimed. The KLC celebration not only promotes the state’s successes in improving literacy rates, but also allows for more focused insights into the areas with which we still need to work.

To emphasize the inclusivity of literacy for all individuals and its role as a foundation for success, the KLC founding partners –– the Collaborative Center for Literacy Development, the Kentucky Reading Association, the Kentucky Council for Teachers of English, and the Kentucky Department of Library and Archives –– have decided to expand the typical designated KLC period. In previous years, the event has been held over a one-week period in March.

The initial 2017 version will run the full month of March, with a more focused event in November. The first timeframe will serve as a public platform for all Kentucky entities to spotlight and share their literacy-focused events with their local communities and the broader Kentucky population.

The KLC website is open for event and project submissions that will be highlighted to promote the various activities and entities celebrating literacy. Small literacy-focused gatherings – like books clubs, public readings and author visits – to larger community events all are welcome. As in the past, the submissions received will be used to depict the counties for each entry on a statewide map, as well as spotlighted on the KLC website page and social media platforms.

The November event will include a week-long state celebration, with details to be shared at a later date. Between March and November, a focus on literacy across all content areas will be promoted through announcements, opportunities to learn and share, and grant offerings.

Please share the news of KLC and Kentucky’s leadership in literacy achievement as we showcase the individual and collective literacy successes in our great state. It truly is a time to celebrate Literacy for ALL!


J. Keith Lyons is the marketing and communications director for the Collaborative Center for Literacy Development, housed and operated through the University of Kentucky. He also serves as the as the president of the Kentucky Reading Association.