Celebrating Ruth Colvin – Syracuse icon and library lover

In 1961, Ruth Colvin was shocked to discover the high level of illiteracy in Syracuse. Despite her lack of teaching experience, Ruth decided to address the problem by starting a small literacy tutoring group. While starting out without help, it wasn’t long before she engaged key stakeholders in the community and then consulted with reading specialists at Syracuse University. Ruth’s efforts eventually became Literacy Volunteers of America (now ProLiteracy). She herself taught hundreds of people to read. Ruth and her husband Bob also traveled extensively, visiting Third World countries, promoting literacy, and learning about cultures and religions that are very different from their own. She has received 10 honorary doctorates and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

Ruth has written 12 books, most of them on literacy and tutoring. Her latest edition, My Journeys Through Life, Love and Literacy – A Memory: A Journey Over 100 Years in Progress, was published in May. In it, Ruth reflects on her life, from her childhood in Chicago during the Depression, to her early days in Syracuse during World War II with her husband, to her trips to countries around the world. “As I shared my life experiences, I learned that all my life seeds have been planted that will make me who I am. I learned from my mistakes – as well as from my successes – and some disasters have been blessings in veil,” writes Ruth.

Ruth Colvin’s local library is Petit Branch, the small library in the Westcott neighborhood of Syracuse. Ruth visits Petit Branch at least once a week to pick up books and always takes the time to talk to the library staff about her adventures. She often spends a little more time with a librarian asking to search for books on a variety of subjects. At 103, Ruth embodies a life of learning, regards reading as a privilege, and describes the library as one of the greatest assets of her community. She keeps talking about how important libraries have been in her life and how grateful she is that the public library is there for her.

Visit the Onondaga County Public Libraries and Petit Department and celebrate an evening with Ruth Colvin about Zoom on Thursday October 22nd from 7pm to 8pm with Ruth Colvin. Ruth reads from her new memoir. Signed copies of Ruth’s book will be given to the first 10 people who register for the event at www.onlib.org.

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