Poetry programs vital for education, promotion of literacy nationwideBy Carolyn Duke | 02/15/2015 11:17pm
The “Changing the World, One Word at a Time” video is a moving recording of Belissa Escobedo, Rhiannon McGavin and Zariya Allen reciting their poem, “Somewhere in America.” Emerging from the nonprofit Get Lit program in Los Angeles, the three young ladies recited their poem on “The Queen Latifah Show”, at the 2014 Hollywood Bowl and at the International Teen Poetry Competition, placing third in the 2014 Brave New Voices contest.
Along with other Get Lit Players, these three young ladies have emerged into one of America’s spotlights on the Internet. Other young poets within Get Lit who have recently become popular include Kyland Turner with his poem “Chases A Dream” and Alondra Dimas,with her video “Dreamers.” Reciting about their fears, their dreams and their realities, these Get Lit Players have moved thousands with their words.
Get Lit’s slogan “Words Ignite” has certainly proved itself correct. Targeting at-risk teens, the program is “increasing teen literacy through classic and spoken word poetry,” according to their website, getlit.org. This program not only uplifts and empowers youths but also increases the graduation rates of high school Get Lit Players. According to the “Power of Get Lit – ‘Let There Be Light’” video narrated by Diane Luby Lane, the founder and executive director of Get Lit, 99 percent of their students go on to attend college. Implemented in high schools where dropout rates often reach up to 70 percent, the improvement created by the program is astounding.
Illiteracy rates are a prevalent and real issue in American society today. Many Americans are blessed to have grown up learning how to functionally and beneficially read and write. However there are many who slipped through the system and are deprived of a skill that allows for individuals to succeed in more ways than one. In April 2013, the U.S. Department of Education and National Institute of Literacy conducted a study and found that 14 percent of the U.S. population cannot read. In Alabama, according to The Gadsden Times article “Alabama Literacy Rate Improves,” the latest study conducted in 2003 and published in 2009 shows “that 15 percent of Alabamians lacked basic reading skills.” Promoting literacy in society is still necessary and relevant in today’s time.
Here at the University, there is a program similar to that of Get Lit called Outlet, and this semester it has cautiously yet excitedly taken off at several high schools in Alabama. As part of the 57 Miles Initiative in the University’s Honors College, Outlet focuses on promoting literacy and youth empowerment through the discovery of poetry by encouraging students to write creative and expressive poetry. Outlet student leaders travel to high schools located in the Black Belt once a week to provide either an in-class or after-school program. Outlet works with high schools that are struggling in producing acceptable scores with state tests.
Programs like Get Lit are crucial for America and the improvement of literacy rates in this country. Allowing for reading and learning to be a passionate and innovative experience for youths is an incredibly important experience to provide for young Americans, as the rate of reading printed text is decreasing. Empowering the next generation with written words and expressive writing is more than fantastic. Programs like Get Lit and Outlet provide, through inspiration and promotion of literacy, ways for children to break out of their social and economic statuses by allowing them to graduate high school and pursue their dreams in college. Reading and writing allows individuals to become their own people and to develop and improve in ways that other skills cannot. Programs like Get Lit and Outlet should be included and started in schools throughout the entire country.
Carolyn Duke is a sophomore majoring in secondary education. Her column runs biweekly.