Literacy Network's Busking For Books
A. David Dahmer
On Saturday, April 26, dozens of local musicians and performance artists will perform up and down State Street to raise awareness and funds for Literacy Network's adult literacy programs while highlighting Madison's rich performing arts community.
Black Star Drum Line, the Boys & Girls Club hip-hop drum group started by local percussionist Joey B. Banks, will be playing at the Library Mall. On the other end of State Street near the Capitol Building will be the Forward Marching Band.
“In between, we will have many different singer/songwriters, a couple bluegrass bands, the Madison Area Ukulele Initiative (MAUI), and a great variety of music,” says Literacy Network Executive Director Jeff Burkhart. “It's on the same day as Crazylegs [Classic eight-kilometer running race] and after the Farmers' Market, so we're expecting a lot of people.”
Literacy Network is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization of professional teachers, tutors, volunteers and donors working together to improve adult literacy in Dane County. Most of the students at Literacy Network are English-language learners.
"Literacy Network teaches reading, writing, and speaking skills to help support people's employment goals and their community involvement, as well as helping them become more involved with the education of their children,"Burkhart says.
This is the fifth year for “Busking For Books.” “It's been great every year … we just add more stuff to it,” Burkhart says. “The great thing about it is that it is super labor-intensive for us. We have volunteers helping and they do a great job. It's not hard to pull it all together.”
Each busker on State Street will have at least one volunteer handing out information about Literacy Network. “We're hoping to raise about $3,500 which will be going toward our Library Fund,” Burkhart says. “But on top of raising money, we're also getting the word out about Literacy Network.
“With more than 1,100 students every year, we want to make sure that we have materials that are very relevant to our students and our tutors,” he adds. “We have a lot of demand on our resources so this [fundraiser] will help quite a bit to make sure that we have what we need for the next couple of years.”
The Literacy Network, located on S. Park St., will be moving all of its Tutor Literacy Programs that they hold throughout the week next door to the new Employment Training Center which was formally a Cousin’s Sub Shop. “We often have to find other locations to do those sorts of trainings, but it's nice to have something that is ours,” Burkhart says. “It's kind of a training annex for us but we will have specific things going on around employment. Looking at the needs of our learners, a lot of them are looking to start their own business; they're interested in learning more about food service. We are going to explore opportunities and partnerships with employers and with other community organizations who are doing this kind of thing.
“We want to help people find better, more-meaningful work and, for us, it's about opening those doors, creating those opportunities, and finding that support that folks need to move into those family supporting jobs,” he adds.
Because of Literacy Network's contributions to the community, Dane County has a better prepared workforce and a diverse, involved population. Adults are better equipped to succeed in the workplace, better understand health issues, and provide supportive environments for the education of their children. Partnerships with other area social service agencies help build even stronger community connections for the program participants.
“The nice thing when we look at the numbers is that we are seeing students spending more time studying. That's a good trend,” Burkhart says. “In the last year, we saw about an 18.8 percent increase in the number of hours per student. It's a great trend to see. We're seeing an increased number of learners working with us and they are also spending more time studying. I think that that indicates that people are very dedicated and that they are seeing that there are opportunities at the end of this and that we are connecting people to Madison College and to longer-term tutoring programs.”
Busking For Books will be an entertaining chance for Madisonians to find out mor ea bout what Literacy Network does in the community.
“It's just a lot of fun. There's a lot of great music that will be all over State Street,” Burkhart says. “We're also encouraging people to come and learn about Literacy Network and the work that we do. We'll have volunteers on every corner sharing that information and we're always interested in helping people learn more about the need for literacy services and what we're doing to help address some of those needs.”