Wednesday, July 22, 2015

2015 International Literacy Association Conference: Opening Ceremony

Sorry for the recent "radio silence" this past week. Life has been very busy, and internet connections were not very reliable where I have been.

But I have much to share because I recently returned from the 2015 International Literacy Association (ILA) Conference in St. Louis. It was an exhilarating, inspiring, and entertaining experience that I would love to share with you. For the next several posts, I will break down each day's activities and the new authors I got to meet. Enjoy!

Saturday, July 18, 2015
Day 1: Opening Ceremony

I attended this conference with three lovely women who are bold reading advocates: my mother, Mrs. Johnson (kindergarten teacher), and Mrs. Sigg (3rd grade teacher). These woman have done so much to aid literacy in their hometown of Iola, Kansas. I have worked with them numerous times with Allen County Young Authors and have attended several Warrensburg Children's Literature Festivals with them as well. So, it was an amazing honor to join them in attending this monumental conference. Thank you for an unforgettable experience, ladies!

The first day of the conference started on Saturday, July 18th. The conference opened with several amazing speakers discussing the need to end illiteracy in the world.

One of the first speakers was Marcie Post, Executive Director of ILA, who discussed their #800Mil2Nil campaign. She told us that over 800 million people in the world cannot read. Out of that 800 million, 32 million live in the United States. To help fight these odds, ILA is hosting a campaign called #800Mil2Nil to bring awareness and aid in ending illiteracy in the world. If interested in joining this movement text LITERACY to 91999. She stressed the transformative power literacy brings in aiding and improving governments, education, and economies. Literacy is a SOLVABLE problem!

Shiza ShahidThe next speaker was Shiza Shahid, an activist and Malala Fund cofounder. Shiza talked about her upbringing in Pakistan where her forward thinking parents supported her efforts in gaining an education...something very few Pakistani families practiced with their own daughters. With her rare educational advantage, Shiza volunteered as a teenager to help in women's prisons and aid Pakistani earthquake victims. Later, she was accepted to attend college in the United States, but she was constantly hearing about problems in Pakistan. The Taliban was denying all girls in the Swat Valley from attending school to increase their intimidation on the population. Shiza returned to Pakistan to create a program to help give these girls the education they were being denied. One of these girls was Malala Yousafzai. Malala was later targeted by the Taliban and shot in the head. Miraculously, she survived the experience and asked Shiza to cofound the Malala Fund, a program that supports women's education in turbulent counties.

For Shiza and the Malala Fund, they found that illiteracy was sustained by poverty. So people need to be innovative and realistic when it comes to ending illiteracy in the world.

They also found that when you educate a girl, amazing things occur. From their studies, educated girls get married at mentally stable ages and then bring children into the world to pass along their own educational goals. Then these educated, married women improve the economy by 30% to 40 %.

Shaquille O'NealThe final speaker for the ceremony was Shaquille O'Neal. Besides being a world-renowned basketball legend, Shaq also worked outside the basketball court to earn a doctorate in Education. He recently added "author" to his many roles with his recently publication of his early reader series Little Shaq.

In his talk Shaq had three pieces of advice to aid teachers and parents in supporting children's literacy: (1) Dream big dreams by helping children see that they can rise above any challenge, (2) Be a leader, not a follower, and (3) Imagination can take you anywhere by visualizing accomplishing awesome feats.

Shaq developed an love of education from his mother. As he rose to fame in his basketball career, his parents would teach him about facing an unknown future by asking him "what if" questions: What if his knee blew out in a game, what would be have to go back on? These "what if" questions led him to return back to college to get his bachelors, masters, and doctorate degrees.

Along with his love of education, Shaq is a firm believer of holding off on technological device usage until children know the foundations of reading and writing. He is worried that kids are too addicted to devices and video games and these addictions are keeping kids from being active learners. With his own six kids, he took away their Smartphones and told them they need to read two chapters in a book before they can play video games.

At the closing of the ceremony, we were received a rousing performance by the electro hip hop violinist SVET.

From there the conference began with over 6,800 educators heading to seminars or into the Exhibit Hall to gain the tools they needed to conquer illiteracy in their corner of the globe. ILA here we go!

My next post will be about the exclusive author "meet up" and Voyagers book-launch cocktail party we attended later on in the day. Stay tuned!

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