St. Petersburg: A City for Art Lovers

Made up of five different arts districts, downtown St. Petersburg is a mecca of restaurants, boutiques, art, and music for all visitors to enjoy.  After your conference sessions are over for the day, enjoy the nightlife and the sights that are found throughout the downtown districts.

Central Arts District st. pete district - central arts

Encompassing the 300-700 blocks of Central Avenue, you can easily enjoy a full day getting to know the city’s art hub. Lovers of art will enjoy the murals and street art seen all over the district and foodies will find restaurants to rave about. Live music can be heard at the many restaurants that line the streets like Acropolis Green Taverna, La V, and Cycle Brewing. Some of the must-sees include the Morean Arts Center, Morean Glass Studio & Hot Shop (which offers glassblowing demonstrations four times daily for a fee of $8.95), and the Florida CraftArt Gallery. For those of you who want a more hands-on approach, check out the Morean Glass Studio’s Glass Experiences for the chance to create your own piece of glass art.  Don’t forget to take the trolley for a fun experience or drive.

Grand Central District st. pete district - grand central

Formed in 2001, Grand Central District is recognized as a Florida Main Street Community. Their goal is to revitalize the community through an eclectic mix of historic preservation and economic development. Purchase some books at Haslam’s Book Store, the largest new & used book store in Florida. Don’t worry about being hungry after your conference sessions are over: with multiple cuisine options in Grand Central District like Casita Taqueria, Punky’s Bar&Grill, Pom Pom’s Teahouse and Sandwicheria, or (swah-rey), you’ll be sure to find something that pleases your taste buds.

The Edge District st. pete district - the edge

As another Florida Main Street Community, The Edge District claims its sense of vibrancy from its pubs, clubs, galleries, and restaurants. Stop by Green Bench Brewing Company and enjoy the tasting room, where you can try over 15 different varieties as you take in the uniqueness of the décor. Continue out into their Beer Garden where the landscaped seating and covered patio provide a great place to enjoy the lawn games, food trucks, and live music on the weekends. Explore The Edge District and take painting classes, visit boutiques, and discover hand-crafted beauty products and jewelry.

Warehouse Arts District st. pete district - warehouse

The Warehouse Arts District started as an industrial zone, and because of its large spaces, artists love using this area to complete larger-scale projects. Come visit the Duncan McClellan Gallery or the Train Station Center for Clay. If you’re looking for a great way to tour the district after your conference sessions, take advantage of the WADA (Warehouse Arts District Associations) Walks. With two Walks to choose from, these self-guided tours take you through a few of the Districts must-see places.

  • WADA Walk One takes you to the Duncan McClellan Gallery and St. Pete Hot Glass Workshop, Zen Glass Studio and Gallery, Charlie Parker Pottery, The Venture Compound, and Funktionhouse, Urban Lumber & Furnishings.
  • WADA Walk Two takes you along 22nd Street South to visit Carrie Jadus Fine and Portraiture, MGA Sculpture Studio, Dazzio Art Experience, Morean Center for Clay, The Clay Center of St. Petersburg, and From Mayan Hands/New World Imports.

Peruse the Where to Visit page for the list of WADA Walk addresses along with other galleries and studios not included in either Walk list.

Waterfront Arts District st. pete district - waterfront arts

Don’t miss out on exploring the Waterfront Arts District! This district boast numerous museums such as the Dali Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Chihuly Collection, and more. The Hilton Hotel where the conference is being held is also located in this district, so attendees won’t have far to travel to visit the sights that the Waterfront Arts District has to offer. Spend your free time enjoying the nightlife, visiting museums, or simply taking a walk or watching a movie.

No matter which districts you are able to visit, downtown St. Petersburg has beauty to offer at every turn.

St. Petersburg: Home of the 32nd Annual Florida Literacy Conference

Registration is in full swing for the 32nd Annual Florida Literacy Conference which will be held at the Hilton St. Petersburg Bayfront Hotel  from May 4th-6th. Be sure to register now to enjoy our early bird pricing.* With hotel amenities and the many attractions St. Petersburg has to offer, everyone is sure to have an enjoyable experience during their stay.


Hilton St. Petersburg Bayfront • 333 1st St S • St. Petersburg, FL 33701

Conveniently located about 25 minutes from the Clearwater International Airport, the Hilton boasts plenty of amenities.  Daily parking will be available for $6. Guests of the conference can enjoy a discounted room rate of $116 available for stays anytime from May 2nd through 9th. This room offer is only available until April 11th. Reserve your room today!

The Hilton Bayfront is located in the center of many attractions. Keep reading for a brief overview of what St. Petersburg has to offer.

*valid until March 5th

Dali Museum

dali museumGo and experience the results of a collaboration turned friendship between two of the 20th century’s world-renowned artists: Salvador Dali and Walt Disney. Disney and Dali: Architects of the Imagination is an exhibit that displays the world shared by these two giants of imagination.* It will take you through paintings, story sketches, photographs, audio, and more that detail the friendship and professional relationship these two cultivated. Also be sure to explore the rest of the museum during this family friendly activity.

*runs January – June

Museum of Fine Arts

Florida-St-Petersburg-Museum-Fine-Arts-Front-FacadeLocated only half a mile from the hotel, the Contemplating Character Exhibit at the museum is just one of the exhibits that will be available for viewing at the Museum of Fine Arts. Go and explore the Neoclassicist, Romanticist, and Realist art styles of the 18th and 19th centuries in an exhibit that features 150 rare portrait drawings and oil sketches of artists, their loved ones, and famous figures. It even includes portraits of George Washington and author Oscar Wilde.


If you’re looking for a meal between your conference sessions or a nice drink to end the day, Tangerine restaurant and the Dali Bar are conveniently located in the hotel.  If you’re exploring the area around the hotel and get hungry, choose from multiple restaurants such as Gratzzi Italian Grille, Z Grille, Meze 119, or Crowley’s Downtown.

                Be sure to check back for future spotlights on attractions!


Cursive and Adult Literacy

cursiveWhen literacy is taught to adults, there is just as much focus on the reading as the writing aspect. Writing has been taught in two mediums in the past, the ability to write print as well as cursive. There is now a debate going on to completely eradicate cursive writing. We are here to look at both the pros and cons and let you decide for yourself whether the form should be eliminated.

Cursive has many benefits associated with it. As new studies emerge on cursive, they are proving that it may indeed be more useful for people to learn the writing form because of the impact it has on the brain. It helps in motor control, sensation, and thinking. This is beyond what simple computer typing does (classified as print).  It has also been found that the certain form of writing is better when used if one is thinking about something, writing, or planning. The act of writing helps to get the thoughts out faster because the style is much more fluid. Another important aspect of cursive is that it was used for most important documents in history: Declaration of Independence, The Constitution, Bill of Rights, and so on. Wouldn’t it be a shame if only specialists in cursive (similar to specialists in reading hieroglyphics) could read these documents and interpret them for the rest of the population?

While cursive has pros, the cons follow right behind it. Cursive takes a lengthy time to learn, and some people just do not have the time to learn cursive. Personally, I was lucky to have learned it at such a young age because a lot of my friends who are now learning cursive have noticed that it is extremely time consuming for them. This is a problem that it takes so much time to learn. Since many people that are learning cursive are also adults, it doesn’t help that they have jobs, and maybe even a family to take care of. Print is easier to learn and is also more readily comprehended by people. The other thing is that cursive is just not as useful as it was in the past. Since most of us use computers, phones, and more writing is in print not cursive, there simply is no need to learn something that will not be useful to a person in the future. They could spend time learning something that would actually benefit them.

Only time will tell if cursive becomes another form of abandoned writing or becomes embraced by the population. There simply is not a demand for cursive anymore as there was once in the past.

For more information about this debate I encourage everyone to look at this video:



Earth Day and Literacy!

Earth Day is this Sunday, April 22. What are you doing to celebrate? If you aren’t sure where you can focus your energy, try doing something with your students. Here is a list of different things you can do and websites you can visit to promote Earth Day Literacy!

Check out your EcoFootprint! Have you taken the quiz to see what your carbon footprint is? Many of us, myself included, are unaware of how our daily actions impact the environment. I like to think that I’m environmentally conscious and doing positive things, but we would need 3.51 Earths if everyone lived my lifestyle! From here, you can start a discussion with your student about different activities you can do to decrease your footprint.

Have your student read about the history of Earth Day. After your student is done reading, go over hard words and ask the student to rephrase the paragraph or page. Find examples of different English rules and practices you have been studying (ex. long vowels, consonant blends) and have your student point them out. Then have a discussion about what positive steps have been taken for the environment or possibly what environmental conditions were like in their country of origin.

State agencies provide many resources online about natural resources and environmental issues in each state. Parks, museums, and nature centers have many special programs for teachers and students. Learn about Florida’s resources and “plan” a trip to one of the areas. Have your student pick a location, schedule events, plan out the resources they would need to get to the location (food, gas, money), and turn it into an inclusive lesson! Perhaps include a Language Experience Story.

Last, National Environmental Education Week, PBS Teachers, National Geographic, ThinkFinity, and Earth Day Network have TONS of resources for you to use in the classroom.  Some of them are K-12 focused, so you might have to altar some of the lessons to better suit your adults.

Literacy and the Homeless

Homelessness literally means ‘without a home,’ yet this definition may not include those persons who live in small quarters with relatives or friends, those who face frequent evictions, or those who are just a paycheck away from homelessness. In FY 2010, Florida had approximately 57,643 men, women and children classified as homeless. Florida has the third largest homeless population in the nation and is the second highest state for home foreclosures.

The profile of Florida homeless has shifted.  Although single adult males make up 41% of the total homeless population, families and children continue to be a growing segment of the homeless in Florida.  Families now make up 40% of all homeless persons. Children under 18 years of age comprise over 35% of all homeless persons.

When children become homeless, they face educational setbacks.  Requirements of the legal guardianship, lack of a permanent address, and immunization records often delay or prevent homeless children from enrolling in schools and receiving an adequate education. Without a chance to get an education, children who are homeless are often unable to acquire the necessary skills they will need to escape from the poverty that led them to become homeless in the first place (National Coalition). The stresses and immediate needs of food, shelter, and safety put literacy training far down the list of priorities for the homeless.

While there are several factors that lead to homelessness for both individuals and families, encouraging family literacy and continuing education can ease this epidemic. Professor O’Neil-Pirozzi from Northeastern University in Boston, created a volunteer program for her students to teach family literacy in homeless shelters. She encourages parents to participate in the literacy program because it could also help to connect the family to external services. Parents are able to learn and watch as different methods of learning are taught to their students.

Another national trend to encourage literacy among the homeless population is newspapers written and sold by people who are homeless or on the verge of becoming homeless. The Homeless Voice, based out of Hollywood, Florida, is the second-largest street newspaper in the country. It covers issues related to homelessness and is written by homeless people. The paper is sold for donations on the streets of South Florida with proceeds going to the medical and food programs at the COSAC Shelter in Hollywood. Tampa recently adopted another homeless based newspaper called the Tampa Epoch. Each copy of the Tampa Epoch will cost a dollar. Homeless vendors are sponsored through donations for the first 25 papers and then will be able to purchase more to sell for 25 cents.

The Florida Literacy Coalition’s report on Literacy and Homelessness inspired and provided information for this post.

Quotes on Education and Literacy from Presidents

“Literacy is not a luxury, it is a right and a responsibility. If our world is to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century we must harness the energy and creativity of all our citizens.” -President Clinton


“A capacity and taste for reading gives access to whatever has already been discovered by others.” and  “The things I want to know are in books; my best friend is the man who’ll get me a book I ain’t read.” -President Lincoln

“A book is the most effective weapon against intolerance and ignorance.” – President L.B. Johnson

“Next in importance to freedom and justice is popular education, without which neither freedom nor justice can be permanently maintained.” -President Garfield

“Let us think of education as the means of developing our greatest abilities, because in each of us there is a private hope and dream which, fulfilled, can be translated into benefit for everyone and greater strength for our nation.” and “Our progress as a nation can be no swifter than our progress in education. The human mind is our fundamental resource.” -President Kennedy

“Literacy is the most basic currency of the knowledge economy we’re living in today.” President Obama

Marty Finsterbusch, the first adult learner president of the NCL

Marty Finsterbusch

Those who know me, know that I do not like to write unless I have to.  That being said, when the Florida Literacy Coalition, asked me to write this blog, I was hesitant to say yes. Even today, it’s very hard work and time consuming for me. They asked me to write what it means to me to be the first adult learner to be voted as President of the National Coalition for Literacy and what I hope to accomplish.  As this was the first time I was asked these questions, I felt I needed to respond.

As President of the National Coalition for Literacy, the most significant thing that I can accomplish is that I can help open doors for my fellow adult learners. As a child with a learning difference, I was seen as less than others and found that it did not change when I became an adult.  I began my adult learning when I went into a literacy program back in 1984, as a student.  What I learned through this experience was that many doors are closed to adults that cannot read and write. I have been working ever since to get adult learners to be seen as equals within the rest of society. Currently, I am the executive director of VALUEUSA, a resource organization for adult learners nationwide.

Today, in our society, we cannot discriminate against someone because of race, gender or sexual orientation, but we can deny people a better life because of their lack of reading and writing skills.  So many people feel like the rest of the world does not see them or care about them because they cannot read and write like every one else. Even people working in the field of adult education do not always see the whole person they are working with. They see what we cannot do, but fail to see what we can do and what we have done.

Adult learners come from all classes in our society. In the past, we would have been just fine. We would have found jobs that would allow us to raise our families and be a vital part of our local community.  However, today, this is not true.  Now, with the speed of technology, the need to be literate in everything that we do is making so many more of us feel left out.  Jobs and opportunities for us to make a better life are going away. We, as adult learners, want to learn. We want to be part of this great nation. We want to be seen as people that can and do make a difference.

For individuals who do not know what the National Coalition for Literacy is; it is an organization that helps bring together individuals and national groups that are concerned and working to help adults get the basic education they need. As the new president, I hope I can motivate more people to appreciate adult learners and recognize that adult learners are a vital part of the solution.

In working together, adult learners, provider groups, funders and government can make life better for so many more people.  If you can help in any way, please do.

Marty Finsterbusch

Executive Director, VALUEUSA


Top Stories in Literacy :January 9

2012 Resolutions for the Nonprofit World
The Chronicle of Philanthropy invited leaders of the nonprofit world to share their resolutions ans an opportunity to set new goals. While not all these are focused on literacy, there are ideas that all of us can use.

Why Awareness Beats Anxiety
Carl Richards of the New York Times gives advice on finding the medium between regrets from the past and worrying about the future. This advice can be given to anyone teaching financial literacy

Best-selling authors to join Gov. Jeb Bush and Mrs. Barbara Bush for Celebration of Reading in Bonita Springs
The 12th annual family literacy fundraiser, Celebration of Reading, will take place on February 17, 2012 in Bonita Springs. This event will feature the former first lady, several other representatives and three New York Times best-selling authors.

Changes in the GED test will make it harder to pass
The new GED expected to launch in 2014, will include higher math skills, computer schkills, and more writing, focusing on development of skills related to career and postsecondary success.  The current model has not been updated since 1999.

A Literate Nation for 2012
This Huffington Post editorial examines the pitfalls with America’s illiteracy problem.

Top stories in Literacy Nov 14

Hello! We’re starting a new thing where every Monday (and sometimes every other Monday), we’ll provide top stories in literacy news. These stories will include non-profit updates, adult basic education, ESL/ELL/ESOL, family literacy, health literacy, financial literacy, career pathways, digital literacy, and important updates for Florida literacy organizations. Here are this week’s top articles:

Nonprofits and charities can now have a page on Google plus

The Nation’s Report Card: Better reading scores start at home

Education Secretary Appeals for Financial Literacy, Planning Instruction in Schools

National  Digital Literacy Corps

The Economic Benefits from Halving the Dropout Rate

A 2010 report, The Economic Benefits from Halving the Dropout Rate: A Boom to Businesses in the Nation’s Largest Metropolitan Areas, from the Alliance for Excellent Education covered the economic benefits of increasing the number of people with high school diplomas. Two Florida cities were highlighted: Jacksonville and Miami.

In Jacksonville, an estimated 7,700 students dropped out from the Class of 2008. If 3,900 of these students were to go on and achieve a high school diploma, it is estimated that they can earn an extra $48 million more in an average year. That extra income would provide an additional $36 million to the local economy and these 3,900 people would have an additional $13 million in savings and investments. As a result of higher wages and spending, the local community would see an additional $3 million in tax revenues. The additional spending would have also resulted in the creation of an additional 400 jobs by the time they reached the midpoint of their careers.

In Miami, an estimated 33,600 students dropped out from the Class of 2008. If 16,800 of these students were to go on and achieve a high school diploma, it is estimated that they can earn an extra $212 million more in an average year. That extra income would provide an additional $157 million to the local economy and these 3,900 people would have an additional $55 million in savings and investments. As a result of higher wages and spending, the local community would see an additional $16 million in tax revenues. The additional spending would have also resulted in the creation of an additional 1,950 jobs by the time they reached the midpoint of their careers.

When adult learners succeed, we all succeed. Thank you again to our volunteers and learners who are working so hard!