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The Next Chapter in Fighting Illiteracy

Members of Lambda Pi Eta, including (seated, left to right) Molly Flanagan and Stephanie Lange, and (standing) Junelle King , Ryan Nichols, and Erica Ruscio, pose with books from Keuka College's Lightner Library.

In the U.S., 30 million people over age 1614 percent of the country’s adult population—don’t read well enough to understand a newspaper story written at the eighth grade level or fill out a job application.

In addition, low literacy costs the country $225 billion or more in workforce non-productivity, crime and loss of tax revenue due to unemployment.

Lambda Pi Eta, the Keuka College communication honor society, plans to put a dent in those statistics Thursday, Nov. 17 with a community read-a-thon.

The event, free and open to the public, begins at 3:30 p.m. in the lower level of St. Michael’s Church in Penn Yan. Each participant will receive a bookmark and certificate of participation. Pizza and drinks will be provided beginning at 4:30 p.m.

While the honor society encourages everyone to come and read, it is targeting elementary and middle schoolers in Penn Yan, Dundee and Marcus Whitman school districts.

“The read-a-thon will benefit the Literacy Volunteers of Yates County,” said Middlesex resident Erica Ruscio, who came up with the idea. “There will be a donation box at the event.”

Ruscio, a junior English and visual and verbal art major, was thinking about ways to “bring attention to illiteracy and low literacy and the impact that they have on a community in terms of the economy and jobs.

“I thought read-a-thon would be a good way to bring attention to illiteracy,” said Ruscio.

“A project like this, that fosters a love of reading in the community, is an inspiring effort on [the honor society’s] part,” said Professor of Communication Studies Anita Chirco, who serves as Lambda Pi Eta adviser. “I am especially impressed that the students came up with the idea and took the initiative to organize the entire project on their own, which demonstrates a high level of dedication to community service, as well as superb organizational skills.”

“For every half-hour [the participant] reads, a coupon with his or her name will be entered in a drawing,” said Ruscio. “Three $50 gift cards to Long’s Cards and Books in Penn Yan will be awarded; two for children and one for adults.”

A limited supply of books will be available, but participants are encouraged to bring their own favorite books, magazines, and newspapers.

Said Chirco: “Membership in Lambda Pi Eta is an honor for communication majors and minors, who are selected on the basis of their high academic performance and dedication to the field. Their dedication to promoting literacy community-wide is more evidence of that commitment.”

In addition to Ruscio, members include Allie Waye-Walker, a senior organizational communication major from Penn Yan; Ryan Nichols, a senior organizational communication major from South Glens Falls; Jenna Chapman, a junior organizational communication major from Gorham; Molly Flanagan, an organizational communication and marketing major from Rochester; Ashley Larimore, a sophomore organizational communication major from Horseheads; Junelle King, a senior organizational communication major from Ithaca; and Stephanie Lange, a senior visual/verbal art and organizational communication major from Apalachin.

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