Indy Reads Books’ Anthology Shows Off Hoosier Writing Prowess

indywritesbook4For our upcoming January/February edition of BizVoice, I have the pleasure of documenting my visits to several literary destinations in Indiana. (The issue will be a Bicentennial Commission-endorsed legacy project, so we’re branching out a little beyond our usual business focus.)

With internationally celebrated names like James Whitcomb Riley, Kurt Vonnegut, Dan Wakefield, Lew Wallace and Gene Stratton-Porter to its credit, the Hoosier state can be proud of its literary legacy.

But the climate in Indiana remains just as hot today. This is evidenced in the publication, Indy Writes Books, published last year by Indy Reads – an incredibly impactful non-profit program in Indianapolis that promotes adult literacy. The book, sold online and at the Indy Reads Books store in downtown Indianapolis, features short stories and other entries by Hoosier authors such as John Green, Wakefield, Cathy Day, gritty fiction writer Frank Bill and even an entry from crossword puzzle maestro for The New York Times (NYT), Will Shortz – a Crawfordsville native.

In the preface, Wakefield relays there was a time (in the late 1940s) when five of the top 10 books on the NYT best-seller list were by authors with connections to Indiana. A truly remarkable feat causing some to speculate there was “something in the water” here.

If you haven’t been to Indy Reads Books in downtown Indianapolis, I suggest you give it a visit. I’m proud to say I serve on an advisory committee for the store and it’s one of my favorite places in the entire city. It offers a relaxed vibe and an enthusiastic cadre of helpful staff and volunteers. And with the Christmas season approaching, there’s no better place to find gifts for the book lovers in your life — and copies of Indy Writes Books are still available!

Here’s a short video from 2014 that includes Indy Reads founder Travis DiNicola and others discussing the book and the store:

Also note that the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library in Indy has a compilation — a journal titled So It Goes — for sale. Its most recent installment features a theme of “social justice” — but next year’s edition will focus on Indiana (stories by Hoosiers or about the Hoosier state). The library will begin taking story submissions in the spring.

Grants Available to Assist in Family Learning

To reach long-sought goals of high educational achievement for all students, there must be stronger collaboration between schools and families. The National Center for Family Literacy and Toyota are partnering to promote such efforts, beginning with a grant program for communities.

Additional details below and online:

The National Center for Family Literacy (NCFL) has announced a new six-year initiative, Toyota Family Learning.  One major component of the initiative: NCFL is now accepting grant applications to further family learning beyond the classroom and into homes and communities. Applications are being accepted now through June 24 at
This year, five organizations will be awarded a three-year, $175,000 grant, in addition to a wide range of NCFL training and communication support, learning items, and materials. Grantees will engage vulnerable families in learning together and participating in family mentor and service learning activities. Schools, libraries, and community-based organizations that provide services to families are eligible to apply.
The vision for Toyota Family Learning, fueled by the enduring NCFL-Toyota partnership, is much more than a specific program or model. It will engage not only grantee families but also families across the nation to be a part of modern-day movement for families learning together. Toyota Family Learning will draw the participation of families both online and offline, incorporating digital elements launching later this year including a website, mobile app, social media, and more. The first component of this effort is the current grant opportunity for communities.

Where We Rank … Literally

We’re No. 25 and No. 43. Those are the ratings for Indianapolis and Fort Wayne, respectively, in the annual America’s Most Literate Cities study published by Central Connecticut State University.

Libraries (branches, volume of materials, utilization and staff) are an apparent Hoosier strength with Fort Wayne seventh and Indy tied for 15th. Those were the best finishes for the Hoosier cities in any of the six categories: booksellers, education, Internet, newspapers and publications are the others.

Seattle topped the list followed by Washington, D.C.; Minneapolis; Pittsburgh; Atlanta; Portand, Oregon; St. Paul; Boston; Cincinnati; and Denver.

Check it out here.

Working Together to Fight Illiteracy

Did you know that one in five individuals in Indianapolis reads below the sixth-grade level?  This is not just a problem unique to our capital city or our state.  Nationally, about 14% of adults function at a level that is “below basic.”  The Indianapolis Star noted the problem in a recent editorial.

Functioning at the “below basic” level means these individuals are able to read the alphabet or recognize a street sign.  It does, however, also mean that the individual may not be able to read the instructions on a prescription bottle or fill out an application for a much needed job.  Take a second and think about what your life would be like if you were not able to perform these basic functions.  As you can probably guess, this national epidemic helps contribute to a substantial burden upon American taxpayers in the areas of public assistance, health care and employer’s unemployment insurance costs – just to mention a few. 

Now you may be asking, “What do you want me to do about it?”  Well let’s take baby steps.  Monday is International Literacy Day.  Take five minutes out of your day to read a book, newspaper or magazine.  Make sure that your children pick up a book and read for a little while.  Show your children that literacy is a lifetime skill that is of the utmost importance.

Go here for more information about fighting illiteracy in Indianapolis. If you are a Hoosier employer experiencing the difficulties of an illiterate workforce, visit Ready Indiana’s web site or call (866) 444-1082.

Chamber VP Supports Literacy Report

A new literacy report from the National Commission on Adult Literacy is being lauded by Indiana Chamber VP Mark Lawrance.

Lawrance explains:

“The comprehensive Reaching Higher, America report is a significant research project with bold recommendations to better prepare our country’s workforce for the 21st century. It urges overhauling and expanding adult education and workforce skills training. That is what the Indiana Chamber has been advocating for in Indiana, as highlighted in our two recent reports on this area (including this year’s Indiana’s Adult Education and Workforce Skills Performance Report)."

Read Lawrance’s full statement here.