Seminar to focus on building adult literacy in southwest Michigan

Contact: Cheryl Roland

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Improving the state of adult literacy in southwest Michigan will be the topic of a one-day seminar at Western Michigan University Friday, Dec. 4, that will draw people from across the area to examine best practices in adult literacy and strengthen services for adult learners.

The Adult Literacy Research and Training Symposium, a free, public event, will be held from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Fetzer Center. it is hosted by the Kalamazoo Literacy Council, the Southwest Michigan Regional Prosperity Initiative, WMU's Business Connection and other organizations.

In addition to the Kalamazoo Literacy Council, other literacy organizations sponsoring the event include the St. Joseph County and Branch County literacy councils. A lunch will be provided to those participating. People wishing to attend the event should reserve a spot by 5 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 1, by sending email to or calling (269) 387-0950.

Focus areas

The seminar is structured around three basic areas of focus.

  • Practical approaches to teaching adults basic skills in such areas as reading, writing, computer literacy and English as a second language.
  • Defining a sustainable vision for strengthening and expanding adult literacy services across the area.
  • Best practices for adult literacy instruction, service learning and internship opportunities for students as well as areas of research that could be conducted.

Attendees are expected to include representatives from various WMU departments, social and nonprofit agencies, businesses interested in workforce development, researchers, students, and others who are working or have an interest in the adult literacy field.

"This symposium is the product of about two years of discussion with WMU and our other community partners," says Michael D. Evans, executive director of the Kalamazoo Literacy Council. "It's really intended to define where we are as a community with adult literacy and to identify and set priorities that will ensure we align our efforts moving forward."


In addition to Evans, confirmed speakers and individual session presenters for the event are:

  • Bob Miller, WMU associate vice president for community outreach.
  • Katrina Goddall of the KLC, who will present with Evans.
  • Connie Sandelin and Vicki Konzen of English as a Second Language of Southwest Michigan.
  • Dr. Esther Gray, WMU associate professor of special education and literacy studies, and Deanna Roland, director of the University's McGinnis Reading Center and Clinic.
  • Randall James, program manager of Humanities for Everybody, Kalamazoo.
  • Dr. Timothy Ready, director of WMU's Walker Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnic Relations, and Dr. Bill Willging, a retired educator and consultant.

The symposium will include sessions on how interns play a major role in the work of the literacy council, how the council is partnering with WMU and others in such areas as workplace and health literacy, the benefits of community literacy centers, adapting academic scholarship into community practice, and more.

"We're still looking for those partners in workforce development, adult education and higher education that will help us expand what we're able to do as a community," says Evans.

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