Through Women Leading Through Reading© Discussion Circles, women learners experience broader learning, fun, support, and affirmation through reading and discussion. The groups focus on issues and concerns relevant to their lives as women. This program adapts a “book club” format and encourages student leadership. The Circles are co-facilitated by trained women volunteers from the local community.
Unfortunately, at this time, WE LEARN does not directly offer any Circles. HOWEVER, we do offer support to those programs or communities who would like to start their own groups.
Women Leading Through Reading© Discussion Circles are adaptable to all kinds of programs for learners at most levels. We have developed a manual, Women Leading Through Reading: A Guidebook for Discussion and Action to get you started. We can also work with you to develop a training or workshop. In 2009, we adapted the program to include more writing. This program, “Women Raising Voices: From Reading to Writing,” uses past issues of Women’s Perspectives in order to encourage student’s to develop their voice and communicate their thinking through writing.
General Goals of Women Leading Through Reading Discussion Circles
Women Leading Through Reading Discussion Circles (WLTR) include and affect three key groups of participants:
- Women learners using or needing adult basic/literacy education (ABE) services;
- Teachers, literacy programs, and/or providers who offer services to ABE women learners; and
- Women from local communities who volunteer as facilitators for the WLTR Circles.
Women Leading Through Reading Discussion Circles have been developed using the principals of popular education and feminist/womanist participatory educational models. They are learner-centered and woman supportive, and potentially a source of transformation for all Circle members. In this way, all participants in WLTR are peers, women collaborating together as both teachers and learners. WE LEARN has identified a list of goals relevant to each of the key groups of participants.
Learning objectives for women learners include:
- Increase their self-efficacy as learners, readers, and as capable women
- Broaden their awareness of women’s issues
- Develop responsibility for learning through goal-setting and self-defined reading priorities
- Identify reading as a place for access to information and problem-solving as well as an option for personal interest, self-reflection, and entertainment
- Improve reading comprehension
- Broaden and apply critical thinking to real-life situations
- Practice writing through journaling
- Expand their conversational abilities and comfort level with speaking in a group
- Develop leadership skills
- Understand ways to engage in community research, action, and civic participation on women’s issues of importance to them
Learning objectives for women/activist facilitators include:
- Understand more clearly the realities, needs, contributions and experiences of women who use or need adult basic and English literacy programs or services;
- Become aware of the particular barriers women face as they seek to enhance their literacy proficiencies and basic education;
- Increase awareness of social, economic, an cultural issues affecting low-skilled, low-income women with limited education or English language proficiencies; and
- Articulate concrete steps to include adult students and their issues in women-centered groups and feminist/womanist activism
Benefits for Teachers and Literacy Programs / Services:
- Enhancement of students’ outcomes and attainment of their educational goals, especially in reading comprehension, writing, speaking English;
- Increased opportunities for contextualized learning for life skills, workplace, citizenship, and other student goals; and
- Encouragement for students in areas such as peer mentoring, leadership development, critical thinking, and civic/community engagement.
Images from Women Leading Through Reading
Women Leading Through Reading (WLTR) was developed 1996 in Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN. Mev Miller (founder and director of WE LEARN) initiated this project in collaboration with the Minnesota Literacy Council, area literacy programs, and the women’s community organized through a local feminist bookstore (Amazon Bookstore Cooperative). The project involved literacy learners, educators, and community supporters. That successful four-year project provided book discussion groups for 70 learners in 10 literacy centers. It uncovered the critical need for women-centered materials appropriate for adult literacy students and identified a need for support of and advocacy networks for literacy teachers and students focused on women's issues. This program provided the foundation for creating WE LEARN. Continue to Portfolio of Accomplishments for more detail.