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March 5, 2020

How to Support Literacy and Help Authors & Readers

Flowers on a book with text: Create a New Reader! Join the Campaign... Romance for Literacy

In my last post, we talked about how writers can pay they help they’ve received forward to others, especially to newer writers. However, there’s another aspect to writing life: readers.

Those of us who publish owe thanks to readers. Without readers, we’d just be publishing books for no reason. Readers help make the time and work we put into writing and editing all worth it.

Those of us who read are grateful to those who write the wonderful books we enjoy. But we also shouldn’t forget to be grateful for our literacy skills. Being able to read probably feels like a basic thing or a given to many of us, but not everyone we encounter in a day possesses those skills.

So to circle back to my previous post, whether we’re a writer and/or a reader, let’s talk about how we all can pay our blessings forward when it comes to literacy. How can we give others the same benefits of literacy we’ve enjoyed?

Literacy Efforts and RWA

Each year, the Romance Writers of America (RWA) has held a literacy autographing event as part of their national conference. Authors gather to sign books for readers, and every book sold at the event has been donated by the publisher or the author so that all proceeds go to literacy efforts.

At last year’s conference, RWA raised over $31,000 to benefit several literacy organizations, including ProLiteracy Worldwide. Over the years, RWA has raised over a million dollars for literacy organizations.

RWA’s efforts to fight for literacy have been recognized several times. ProLiteracy estimates the contributions they’ve received from RWA have helped 40,000 adults learn to read.

RWA’s Implosion and Literacy Efforts

However, anyone who has been following the news of the writing world the past few months might have heard that RWA is in the midst of an implosion. After RWA improperly handled ethics complaints, giving evidence to longstanding issues with bigotry throughout the organization, the entire board resigned, some in protest of the problems and others out of pressure for accountability for the problems.

Due to the implosion, many members have canceled their membership, the annual RITA awards were canceled, and the status of the annual conference is up in the air. If the conference moves forward at all, it won’t be in the usual format.

All that left many to wonder what the chaos meant for the annual literacy fundraiser. And in turn, many worried about what a lack of that fundraising would do to literacy efforts.

The Power of Literacy

If we stop to think about what literacy has done for us, we realize the strength that comes from the power to read. Being able to read can help us teach ourselves whatever we want to learn. Just look at this blog for an example of one of the many ways we can learn new skills through reading. *smile*

You there! Yes, you, the one reading this. Have you ever thought about the power of literacy? Click To TweetMost of us probably can’t even imagine what our lives would be like if we couldn’t read, yet more than 43 million adults in the U.S. lack basic literacy skills. Not surprisingly, literacy skills are important for breaking the cycle of poverty, improving job skills, and increasing overall quality of life. Literacy changes lives and empowers people.

ProLiteracy, one of the main organizations RWA has worked with in the past, promotes not only adult literacy, but they also partner with other groups to focus on using those new literacy skills to teach other important skills. For example, ProLiteracy’s partnership with Each One Teach One helps domestic violence survivors escape the cycle of abuse and move forward with literacy skills to create a better life for themselves and their families.

The Romance Community Supports Literacy

ProLiteracy does good work and has benefited from RWA’s support in the past. Luckily, as many have said throughout the implosion, the romance community is bigger than just RWA. So as a community, we can ensure the efforts to fight for literacy aren’t forgotten.

At the lead of superstar author Beverly Jenkins—USA Today bestselling author, nominee of the NAACP Image Award in Literature, and recipient of RWA’s Lifetime Achievement Award—and Tessa Dare, NYT bestselling author of Regency romcoms, the romance community has been continuing its fight to improve literacy.

Introducing Romance for Literacy!

Romance for Literacy Logo

Working with ProLiteracy, Tessa and Ms. Bev and the romance community established the Romance for Literacy fundraising campaign. The proceeds of this campaign will help improve literacy skills as well as other life skills for women.

As ProLiteracy describes the campaign:

“More than 43 million adults in the United States lack basic literacy skills, two thirds of whom are women. Research shows that up to 90% of domestic abuse survivors lack financial literacy skills.

You can help us empower women with the creation of online, direct-to-student courses that will teach necessary skills (such as financial literacy, health literacy, and workplace development) while developing critical foundational reading, writing, and language skills. This will give women the confidence they need to transition into traditional adult education programs and create a better life for themselves and their families.”

The Romance for Literacy campaign aims to raise $50,000, enough to create a course that would be free to domestic violence shelters and other social service organizations (as well as their clients, of course). Great cause, right?

How Can You Join the Fight for Literacy?

Many in the romance community have been sharing links to the Romance for Literacy campaign. Some members of the community have created teams with bonuses.

Love to read or write? Invest in future readers with the Romance for Literacy campaign Click To TweetFor example, fans of Tessa Dare and her historical romance can get swag by donating through her page. Fans of Kit Rocha’s books can get copies of their ebooks by donating through their page. Courtney Milan is sharing pictures of her pets on her page (warning: language).

I’m joining in the effort for the Romance for Literacy campaign with an acknowledgement of how important reading is to all of us. Check out Team Golden Readers!

If we meet my team’s $500 goal, anyone who donates through my team (in any amount!) is entered for a chance to win a signed paperback of one of my novels (their choice of book). Those who are able to donate $50 or more will automatically get a signed copy of any one of my books they want, or potentially signed copies of all of them. *grin*

Even if you can’t donate, please encourage others in your life to do so, especially if you work with agents, editors, publishers, or reader groups. Working together, we can invest in new readers, which benefits us all.

(Authors or reader groups, if you want to create your own team, register through ProLiteracy and check out the Romance for Literacy Toolkit, or you could join an existing team. RWA current/former members no longer attending the National Conference this year, consider donating money that would have gone to your conference registration to the cause.)

All of Us Should Support Literacy

Sure, we can point to all the serious reasons mentioned above for why literacy is important. It helps improve people’s job skills, financial skills, and lives.

But for those of us who love to read and/or write, we also know the power of good stories. And we’re not just talking about writers and/or readers of the romance genre here. A good story of any genre can resonate with us, inspire us, challenge us, and make us feel like we’re not alone.

Now’s our chance to pay it forward and share those feelings by creating brand new readers—how cool is that! As Ms. Bev said, “Help us bring the joy we find in reading and writing books to those who struggle with the written word.” *smile*

Have you ever thought about what literacy means to you—or what it would mean to struggle to read? Have you ever been involved in literacy efforts? Did you know of RWA’s history of supporting literacy? Had you heard of the Romance for Literacy campaign yet? Do you have any questions about the campaign or about my team or donation bonuses?

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