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9/27/2013 6:00:00 AM
Activist taking on illiteracy in Kingman

Kim Steele
Miner Staff Reporter

KINGMAN - When Christine Meisenheimer moved here three years ago from southwest Michigan, she couldn't believe there wasn't a literacy program in the city.

Meisenheimer, 63, had been involved in a literacy program in Michigan for 10 years, teaching a variety of students to read, from some with traumatic brain injuries to others who didn't connect well in school and dropped out.

To Meisenheimer, a long-time activist, the need for a good literacy program in most U.S. cities is a no-brainer

And when she heard that Kingman's functional illiteracy rate is about 60 percent, she was aghast. A functionally illiterate person cannot read or follow complex directions, fill out a job application or manage daily living and employment tasks that require reading and writing skills beyond a basic level.

""I was appalled and it started me on a war path here," said Meisenheimer. "I rattled cages and stomped my feet and snorted to get a literacy program started in Kingman.

"I've been a human rights activist all my life, and I know that the single most important factor in reducing the poverty level is learning to read."

So Meisenheimer joined the Workplace, Education and Literacy Coalition of Mohave County, an umbrella agency promoting literacy. Lake Havasu City and Bullhead City had literacy programs, but Kingman's had disintegrated.

Meisenheimer approached the agency and asked for enough funding to start the ball rolling in Kingman again. She got it, and ordered material and recruited two coordinators.

Both resigned before they started, leaving Meisenheimer to train 13 volunteer tutors.

The program, called Kingman Area Literacy Program (KALP) got its first student a little more than a month ago - a third-grader who is mildly autistic and needs extra help with his reading. Also, a resident from India is recruiting his friends who want to learn English.

The free program, housed in the Kingman Public Library, offers reading and other academic, GED and English as a Second Language study for children and adults. Participants receive an evaluation of their proficiency level before starting their sessions.

The program can accommodate about 20 students, with tutors assigned to one or two participants. Applications can be picked up at the library's circulation desk.

"Literacy is important to Kingman," said Meisenheimer. "Why would big industries come here if the population is illiterate? They need employees who can read directions and understand them. Why invest $2 million or more in a place where people can't read? An illiterate community is nothing but a liability for a company, and we need to change that in Kingman so we can attract business here."

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Reader Comments

Posted: Sunday, October 6, 2013
Article comment by: maybe Americans aren't exceptional .....

so American kids struggle to even read and write English, while most European nations'kids must achieve fluency in several languages before entering the adult world (and in Sweden, for example, the national school system specifically FORBIDS teaching foreign languages to children until age 7, since they believe young childrens freedom to play is more important to their development. Yet at high school graduation, the minimum requirement is fluency in three languages).

Posted: Tuesday, October 1, 2013
Article comment by: Uncle Anson

Functionally illiterate goes far far beyond an ability to read or write. Look at the ads on TV where the 4 to 6 year olds proclaim how smart their phones and other electronic devices are. The skill of counting change back to a customer is gone. We learn how to plug numbers into a calculator or computer, push a button, and blindly follow the results. You have no idea of the number of college graduates, in technical studies, that cannot do something as basic as identifying an equation and then evaluating the and assessing the merits of the variables and interactions and impacts of each on a solution. And do not tell me that's anything but functional illiteracy. Do not tell me that's technology. Tell me instead that we are fast approaching a society of functionally illiterate robots. Our educational system is teaching functional illiteracy. How do we correct this? Simple. Readin, ritin and Rithmatic. Have a nice day

Posted: Monday, September 30, 2013
Article comment by: Denise Bensusan

YOU GO GIRL.....You have made some excellent comments and shared some real data concerning us FAILING our children and the entire population of this community!

Posted: Monday, September 30, 2013
Article comment by: Victoria McKee

I have a hard time accepting that 60% of our local population is functionally illiterate. I work with the local public and most have no problem filling out forms. I have encountered just a few who have these issues and am glad to have a program to help assist them in living normal productive lives.

Posted: Monday, September 30, 2013
Article comment by: Capt. Nice

I wonder if that 60% is people who can't read or write or that they do not read or write at speeds that some say they can do.
I know people who read probably three books to my one as I have to read slow to understand what I'm reading.
If this woman really wants to help people with reading she should teach people to comprehend what they read as that is the most important part of reading.
Reading comprehension was not taught in school when I was a kid and I'm sure looking at pictures is all they do now.
Every kid in the world can text, so they must be able to read and write a little bit.

Posted: Monday, September 30, 2013
Article comment by: THE TEA PARTY IS ON KOCH


And who are these 40% who fill out the forms for "Government get something for free cards". Couldn't be democrats AND REPUBLICANS could they? The republicans need to clean up their own back yard and get off the dole! You need to set an example. Tell all your conservatives buddies to NOT take money or free bennies from the Government, then the public will know that you are for real about solving this problem of hand outs, and not just total hyprocites.

Posted: Sunday, September 29, 2013
Article comment by: Darrell johnson

these people have to be able to fill out their forms to apply for Government "get something for free cards" wick,ebt, Obummer phones, and so on. The 40% are also doing good on the backs of all of us working and paying tax. life is good!

Posted: Sunday, September 29, 2013
Article comment by: Linda Athens

Just curious! Why is it the responsibility of others to make you literite?

Whatever happened to pulling yourself up by the bootstraps, learning on your own. That IS/WAS the American way you know. Noone waited for someone to come along and lead them by a rope.

I am curious about the "materials" this lady ordered. And I have been here over 70 years and I frankly never knew a single person who could not only read but write legibly as we were taught in penmanship.

Returning years later, a bunch of other people have moved in - while working at the WIC office for a time, people would call from CA, ask how they could sign up for freebies before driving over to live here. They WERE illiterite. They didn't ask about work opportunities here - they specifically ask about freebies.

Posted: Sunday, September 29, 2013
Article comment by: B B

Just make sure that the reading materials that you have to teach from does not have any lefty agendas in them, like the stuff they teach in colleges. I have noticed that most teaching materials have major tendency to lean to the left.

Posted: Sunday, September 29, 2013
Article comment by: Agree With Laurie

I, too, am happy that there is someone out there making it easier for those who are illiterate to have a second chance at learning to read/write. However, like Laurie, I question the data in this article that 60% of Kingmanites are illiterate. Where did this number come from? I have lived here since 1946 and I only know one person who cannot read or write and he is disfunctional in many areas.
Please run another article with proof of that tremendously high number. I don't believe it!

Posted: Friday, September 27, 2013
Article comment by: Throwing Up

Personally I think that if anyone in American can't read or write in this day and age it's their own fault. Back when my grandfather was a child there were lots of people who couldn't read, but there were no programs and many schools were small and the kids were expected to work instead of learn. But that is not the case anymore. And I agree with Ms. Barthlow, living in Kingman my hole life I only have met one person who was illiterate. Not 60 percent.

Posted: Friday, September 27, 2013
Article comment by: Edward Tomchin

This is very welcome and very much needed in this community. I've lived here more than 13 years and the number of children AND adults who are illiterate (unable to read or write) is outrageous and debilitating.

There are some very intelligent people who can't read or write. Unfortunately in a literate country, they hide their inability and some even become successful in work, business and social life. That people that intelligent are stuck in a community that will not help them become literate is a disgusting situation, but not all that uncommon in Mohave County.

I hope this group is successful and helps bring some very deserving people out of the darkness of illiteracy.

Posted: Friday, September 27, 2013
Article comment by: Laurie Voss Barthlow

I can read, Ms. Meisenheimer, and I applaud any effort to bring others into literacy. However, I must challenge the above statement that 60% of our local population is functionally illiterate, and would be most interested in seeing the data to support that figure. I can be reached directly at I heave emailed the reporter as well.

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