Read up: March is Literacy Month


Staff writer

Illiteracy’s cheerful foes, including Seattle Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander, Multi-Service Center chief executive officer Dini Duclos, and Federal Way Public Schools superintendent Tom Murphy, gathered last Friday for a kickoff breakfast to celebrate the beginning of Literacy Month. The Federal Way Chamber of Commerce’s Education Foundation sponsored the event, which was attended by 200 and raised $14,319.

Alexander, the master of ceremonies, said he supported those who believed in helping others.

“I’m about helping people grow spiritually, mentally and physically,” Alexander said. “I want to help people make great decisions. If they have knowledge, they can make decisions for themselves. They can never say ‘I could’ve, would’ve, should’ve.’”

Major donors were honored for their contributions to the Education Foundation: The Weyerhaeuser Company Foundation for its donations of nearly $40,000; Capital One for its $20,000 donation; and Al and Kathy Franzen for their $10,000 donation.

One woman, Gretchen Harvey, spoke of her hardship caused by not having a high school diploma and her eventual triumph when she earned her general equivalence degree through a Multi-Service Center program.

“I was never able to compete with people with college degrees –– or high school diplomas, for that matter,” Harvey said. “Computers and technology completely passed me by. I found myself having to support myself and my daughter, so I went back for my GED. As a role model for my child, success was the only answer. Education has given me a new lease on life and the opportunity to go for further education.”

According to a study by the National Institute of Literacy in 2000, 11 percent of people 16 and older in south King County are only literate enough to sign their name and locate basic information, but are not able to fill out a form. Of fourth-graders in this area, 65 percent met Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) standards, and the area had the largest number of bilingual students in King County at 7,500, or 7 percent of the total student population.

According to United Way of King County, the definition of literacy is no longer the ability to read at a basic level, but has expanded to include reasoning and problem-solving skills. Low literacy rates are often associated with social problems connected to poverty.

Murphy called on the Federal Way community to support literacy efforts.

“These are challenging times,” Murphy said. “In difficult times, there is a tendency for people to withdraw. Needy people are most impacted during difficult times. This is not the time to withdraw from the promise of our nation—life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. All of this is based on education.”

Duclos also was among the breakfast speakers.

The Education Foundation’s goal is to raise $110,000 this year. So far it raised $55,000. The funds support efforts like after-school programs for homeless children and assistance for children who are struggling to read.

Staff writer Kenny Ching: 925-5565 or

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