Everybody has a skill.
This seemingly obvious truth is the cornerstone of Literacy Mid-South
movement, an effort to highlight the wide variety of talents possessed by Memphians.
Through #ShareYourSkill901, people are encouraged to share what they are talented in. It’s important for people to share their gifts and for others to recognize gifts in others because many wrongly assume they have no skills, according to Stacy Early, adult program director for Literacy Mid-South.
“[Some people say,] I’m just a housekeeper, I need to do better, or just whatever—fill in the blank,” said Early. “I think by valuing some skills over others, we’ve lessened the value of those skills that maybe some people take for granted.”
Among Literacy Mid-South’s clients are business owners, people not typically thought of as low-literate.
“There is a wide gamut of people who come to us for help for either reading or for English,” Early said. “We talk about this in the office all the time.”
A new person from AmeriCorps VISTA, someone who is now an employee at Literacy Mid-South, kept overhearing these conversations and came up with the idea for a skill-sharing program. The Literacy Mid-South team expanded on those initial efforts, and the #ShareYourSkill901 movement was born.
“It became a way to destigmatize low-literacy in adults and to really just point out that everybody has a skill, no matter their education level, and that we should be celebrating those skills as a community and realize the value we bring to each other,” said Early.
Memphians have many ways to share their talents. From May to January, 18 Memphis libraries
are hosting bookmark stations, where participants may write or draw their skills on a bookmark. They may share their bookmarks on social media (@LiteracyMidSouth on Facebook
; @LiteracyMSouth on Twitter
), share their skills via text or voicemail at (901) 201-6028, or share their skills on the #ShareYourSkill901 website.
In May, #ShareYourSkill901 has bookmark stations at the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library
and the Raleigh Library
, and the program has been featured at two other events.
“We did BookStock
at Hooks and Eat This Book
at the Raleigh Library, and people have been so excited,” said Early. “When we say, ‘Everybody has a skill, no matter what,’ we get these really robust responses like ‘Oh yeah, they do! We know that!’”
Many people have never been told that they have a skill, so they say, “I don’t have a skill.”
“We’re like, ‘Yes you do!’ I was really excited when someone wrote down ‘kindness’ as a skill. That’s what I’m looking for,” Early said.
The #ShareYourSkill901 program was in part modeled after the ABCD (Asset-Based Community Development) Institute
at DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois, which places high value on the gifts and talents of people who live in the community. #ShareYourSkill901, said Early, is still a work in progress, and she envisions beneficiaries of the program having a say in its direction.
“Our long-term goal is really just the community support and involvement in literacy,” Early said.
“If we can get people talking about literacy in a positive way, then we can all continue to grow, learn, and grow our skills, and that’s just going to make everybody better.”