Literacy Infusion Projects.

(Thank you to Literacy Powerline for the use of selected contents and graphics.)

Thousands of agencies individually work to address diverse quality of life issues. These agencies are often able to achieve successful outcomes in the realm of their particular service provision focus. This kind of success, while helpful, is limited in terms of impact on the “whole person.” This service delivery model is often cited for its “isolated impact” or “work in silos.” Agencies and donors have come to ask themselves, “What good is it for one agency to succeed in its work when clients remain hobbled by other obstacles to a functional quality of life, and with issues that tend to be ongoing and generational?”

As much as we would like to say literacy as a cure-all, it is not. Without the work of other non-literacy organizations, literacy programs will fail in their aim to give people the skills they need to function in society. Literacy should be perceived as a tool and not a goal. The goal is a balanced quality of life. This balance cannot be reached when clients are dealing with matters related to food, shelter, transportation, parenting, and mental health.   Conversely, non-literacy programs are more apt to succeed with their clients when they use literacy as a tool and a resource.

Knowing this, the San Diego Council on Literacy has launched its first Literacy Infusion Project in the City of El Cajon. This has called for the following, new SDCOL actions:

  • Working on smaller community scales vs. the role of countywide literacy coalition
  • Convening, promoting, and branding the smaller network of literacy service programs in targeted community areas and creating a community and campaign where reading is a priority
  • Investing in the intensive application of primary SDCOL interventions
    • Partnerships and active exchange of resources with non-literacy agencies
    • Raising awareness to increase access to literacy services
    • Raising awareness to increase literacy volunteer recruitment
    • Addressing “Summer Slide” so that low-income children have books to read during the summer and do not fall behind when they are not in school
    • Providing diverse resources, especially, year-round, books for teachers, parents, and agencies to provide to children

To give structure to these partnerships, literacy programs and non-literacy programs are agreeing to the following Memorandum of Partnership

  1. The San Diego Council on Literacy will do the following:
  2. Provide information via training and other resources to help the agency partner succeed in serving clients using literacy as a resource;
  3. Enhance access to literacy services for all clients through on-site literacy service promotions (literature, referral cards) at agency locations;
  4. Post information at literacy program sites to promote the services of agencies/partners;
  5. Train agency personnel in identifying clients who read at low levels. Provide training in how to counsel low-level reading adults, who to refer to literacy programs, how to refer, where to refer;
  6. Review agency literature for clients who read at low-levels. Reduce the readability level/difficulty of literature given to clients (as time allows);
  7. Provide books for children/families (per availability);
  8. Engage in discussions with agency personnel to produce strategies that respond to the diverse needs of clients. Exchange information that is mutually beneficially to both agencies.

The non-literacy program agency will do the following:

    1. Provide guidance or training to literacy program personnel so that they can help literacy students address “quality of life” issues that create obstacles to literacy skill acquisition;
    2. Provide guidance, services, and resources to literacy students [who meet agency service requirements] so that these students can overcome family stability issues that are obstacles to literacy skill acquisition;
    3. Host at least one training as described in item I.4. above;
    4. Attend at least one meeting with literacy program partners (El Cajon Literacy Network.)
    5. Promote the El Cajon Literacy Network via on-site literature or other organization outreach;
    6. Engage in discussions with literacy program personnel to produce strategies that respond to the diverse needs of clients. Exchange information that is mutually beneficially to both agencies.

By using this approach, we increase the prospects for developing service strategies, which include fully integrated literacy services. Few communities have this today and the result is a fragmented approach to service delivery that has not accomplished the vision of 100 percent literacy and has not helped clients in other key aspects of their lives.


For community transformation to take place:

  • Infusion must occur across the age span of lifelong learning
  • Activities must cross social issue initiatives and
  • Infusion must be at all levels of community planning


Return on Investment

By infusing literacy goals into current non-literacy programs, the community can increase capacity to serve learners at little additional cost. Not only does literacy pay huge dividends in quality of life but the dollars and cents add up.

Through community wide planning, issue elevation, and infusing literacy into funding and service goals, literacy becomes an integrated part of the community’s development and service strategy.