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Short History and Timeline of the Virginia Literacy Foundation

The mission of the Virginia Literacy Foundation (VLF) is to promote a lifespan of literacy services from pre-K through adulthood so that Virginians can acquire the literacy skills they need to succeed as learners, citizens, parents, and workers. When the Foundation was established in 1987 by Jeannie P. Baliles, Virginia’s First Lady, 34 adult literacy organizations across Virginia served approximately 1,400 adult literacy students, with a similar number of tutors. Between 1987 and 1995, the number of private volunteer literacy groups increased from 34 to 74, and the number of volunteer tutors rose from approximately 1,400 to 4,523. The number of adult students these programs served had increased by 290%. Today, more than 100 community-based and faith-based literacy organizations serve over 10,000 under-educated adults across the Commonwealth. Since its inception, the Foundation has provided many of these literacy organizations with grants totaling nearly $4.0 million.

In 2002, the Virginia Literacy Foundation formed a partnership with Virginia Commonwealth University to create The Literacy Institute at Virginia Commonwealth University, which responds to the dual needs to provide sound research and to affect public policy. To that end, The Literacy Institute includes representatives from VCU's School of Education, Center for Public Policy, and the Virginia Adult Learning Resource Center.

Timeline of VLF Events

1986: Jeannie P. Baliles founded the Virginia Literacy Foundation

1987: Virginia Literacy Initiative, a public/private partnership between the VLF and the State Adult Literacy Committee, is established.

1989: First Lady Barbara Bush attended a Literacy Conference that celebrated the accomplishments of Virginia’s literacy programs and supporters through the newly formed Jeannie P. Baliles awards. These awards have totaled over $119,000 to date (2009).

1990-1993: Level of state funding was maintained for adult literacy education through the efforts of the Virginia Literacy Initiative. The partnership included technical assistance to literacy programs provided through the Literacy Training Office (now the Virginia Adult Learning Resource Center) and Virginia Commonwealth University.

1991: The Foundation received a three-year Toyota Family Literacy Grant in which 120 families participated. Partners included Richmond Public Schools, the Richmond Public Library, and Richmond Department of Social Services.

1992: The Virginia Literacy Initiative funded a two-year fellowship at the University of Virginia that investigated the effectiveness of instructional methodologies in adult literacy education.

1993: The newly legislated Virginia Advisory Council for Adult Education and Literacy replaced the State Adult Literacy Committee as the public sector representative in the Virginia Literacy Initiative.

1998: The VLF partnered with James Madison University to develop the Workforce Improvement Network.

1998: Virginia’s First Lady Roxane Gilmore joined Mrs. Baliles as co-chair of the Board.

1999: The Virginia Literacy Leadership Council successfully lobbies for $400,000 in state funds that support community-based organizations. 1999: The Literacy Support Center was formed with regional coordinators who provided technical support and training advice to their region’s programs.

2000: The first "A Celebration of Words" was held with former President Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush in attendance.

2000: The Workforce Improvement Network surveyed Virginia employers about workplace-based foundational basic skills.

2001: First Program Improvement Institute implemented with six literacy programs across the state. Staff and board members attended four institutes and worked on a program improvement goal in this two-year effort.

2002: The Virginia Literacy Foundation formed a partnership with Virginia Commonwealth University to create The Literacy Institute at Virginia Commonwealth University.

2003: Literacy Specialist at the Virginia Adult Learning Resource Center now coordinates all training and technical advice from a centralized location.

2003: In the Governor’s PASS Initiative, the Virginia Literacy Foundation oversaw a support program in eight federally sanctioned schools to meet the unique needs of high-poverty children. The Take Home Reading Program built vocabulary background knowledge for later comprehension.

2003: The Northern Virginia Program Improvement initiative, a two-year effort with five northern Virginia programs begins. The initial event, hosted by William Hazel, was held in Northern Virginia.

2004 – 2007: In conjunction with the VLF and Verizon, member literacy organization of the Virginia Literacy Leadership Council embarked on a three-year development of the QuAL-D database that improved the quality and consistency of the data reported.

2005: The third Program Improvement Initiative began with 17 programs. Centered on quality data, setting policies on data collection, using data for program management and outreach, and training data specialists, the programs implemented good data gathering and dissemination.

2005: The second "A Celebration of Words" was kicked off at The Governor’s Mansion, with former First Lady Barbara Bush in attendance.

2005 – 2008: Development of a 14-hour online tutor training and 30-hour online train the trainer workshops for Virginia’s literacy program volunteers and staff, with support from Verizon and Interface Media Group, allowed for literacy programs to offer training any time, any where. 2008 to present: Excellence in Children's Early Language and Literacy (ExCELL), formerly Northside Reading Foundations (NoRF), brings together families, early childhood educators, community resources, and early literacy specialists with the goal of ensuring that children receive the learning opportunities (at home, at preschool, and in the community) necessary to develop critical early language and literacy skills known to predict later reading success.

2008: The Jiranek family donated funds to the VLF to oversee the annual Nancy Jiranek Award for Outstanding Executive Director of a Literacy Program in Virginia.

2009 to present: The VLF began to sponsor an annual conference at the end of February for all of Virginia's community-based literacy organizations. This conference, held in Richmond, has nearly doubled from 60 participants in the first year to over 115 participants in 2014.

2012-2015: The VIP Initiative, funded by the Verizon Foundation, Wish You Well Foundation, and Paul M. Angell Family Foundation begins in September 2012 with eight literacy programs across underserved areas of Virginia in Cohort One (2012-2014) and 7 additional programs in Cohort 2 (2013-2015). The VIP Initiative is a four-year strategic statewide program improvement initiative with 15 community-based literacy organizations (CBLOs) that are poised to move towards the next level of program excellence. The VIP initiative targets programs situated in largely under-served areas in Virginia by providing technical assistance and a common core of program standards in program management in order to help programs strengthen their ability to help adult students achieve their literacy and workplace goals.

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