A-B-A-C-I-S-C-U-S. Abaciscus. An abaciscus is a small abacus. It was also the final word in the Literacy Instruction for Texas (LIFT) Second Annual Adult Spelling Bee, sponsored by Half Price Books, Tibbets Media and the Dallas Morning News. The bee was similar to the old-school spelling bee, but entrants decide answers as a team. Plus there were prizes for “most enthusiastic team”, “best team cheer” and “best team costume”. The bee is part of LIFT’s efforts to raise awareness about the adult illiteracy rate. The East Dallas organization’s spokeswoman, Leslie Clay, says 60 percent of Dallas-area adults perform below the high school level of literacy, and 49 percent perform at or below a fourth-grade reading level. Sometimes illiteracy is due to poverty, or limited knowledge of the English language, or sometimes people just go through the system without ever learning to read or write. She cites the example of John Corcoran, an advocate for literacy instruction, who graduated college and taught high school for 17 years without being able to read, write or spell. Corcoran wrote a book titled, “The Teacher Who Couldn’t Read”. It’s an extreme example, Clay says, “but some people just slip through the cracks.”

For information about LIFT’s programs, visit lift-texas.org.

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