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Motivation for Reading and Writing
The Stories of Our Lives

Presented by:
Missy Corbett, Literacy Specialist
Vision Literacy - Corrections
Santa Clara Public Library California

The song that launched SIBL as a nonprofit was founder Deborah Pardes' "7th STEP", inspired by Frank McCourt's memoir, Angela's Ashes. Missy Corbett wrote to SIBL about her experience using this song in her work. This account underlines the power of storytelling. Beyond functional literacy skills (important as those are), literature can open the doors of our minds.

Missy Corbett writes:
I recently had the opportunity to use your song, "7th STEP", in a learner support class I facilitate at a correctional facility. The men in my class are between 19 and 42 years old, and their literacy levels vary greatly. One man is just beginning to write the alphabet. Another reads and writes quite well, but struggles with basic math. When the class began, most of them were strangers.

It was my intention to use "7th STEP" not only as a springboard for an informal discussion on reading, but also as a way for them to become comfortable sharing their opinions with each other in a safe environment. I was very pleased with the results. Everyone around the table participated, often revealing very personal information with the group.

For many, the song touched upon a familiar circumstance in their childhood�poverty, hunger, parental alcoholism, and abandonment. I believe it is their ability to intimately relate to the main character that will entice my students to read Angela's Ashes. One student has already begun to read it, with a tutor and dictionary by his side.

At the end of the class, one man asked me, "You mean, people really want to read about a life like that?" I told him how the book was on the New York Times Best Seller list for weeks, and that there are shelves of books with similar stories, just waiting to be opened. He said that he has a story, too. Perhaps the SIBL Project will inspire new writers as well.

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