How One Busy Shopping Day Supports Literacy for All

Sheila and Sandra Tutoring

It’s the calm before the holiday storm here at Parnassus. We’re one week away from Thanksgiving, which means we’re also a week away from one of the busiest bookstore weekends and one of our favorite days of the year: IndieNashGiving. You may know it as Small Business Saturday — and in the book biz it’s also #IndiesFirst day (go visit your local bookstore, wherever you are!) — but here in Nashville there’s another wonderful layer to this holiday. On the Saturday after Thanksgiving, several locally owned shops and restaurants all over the city pair up with nonprofits of their choice and pledge to give a portion of their sales to a Nashville charity. Why? Because Nashvillians look out for each other.

Whenever you skip the chains and support locally owned establishments, your money stays in your community, feeding your city’s economy. On IndieNashGiving day, your friends and neighbors who own Nashville-based businesses take that concept a step further, making sure that the neediest among us share in the good fortune of a bustling business day.

Do you run a Nashville-based business or know someone who does? There’s still time to get in on this powerful movement. What local cause will you choose as your beneficiary? Click here to get started!

Here at Parnassus, we’re splitting our IndieNashGiving donations between two organizations we love. You’ve already read about the St. Luke’s Community House Toy & Book Store (which is still taking book donations!). Today, learn more about the tremendous work happening at the Nashville Adult Literacy Council (NALC). Here’s a Q&A with CEO Kim Karesh.

First off: who are the people served by the Literacy Council? How do they find you, and what are they seeking?

image003 (1).jpgKK: This year, NALC expects to serve more than 1,000 adult learners with the help of more than 500 volunteers. NALC serves two types of learners: American adults who read or comprehend at less than an eighth grade proficiency and adult immigrants who have limited English skills.

Students hear about us from people they know or through referrals from partner programs. When they come to us, they already have their motivation identified. Some want a high school diploma or acceptance into college. Some want a better job or a driver’s license. Some want to be able to read street signs and food labels. Some want to read stories to a child or grandchild. And more than once, a romantic husband has wanted to write a love letter to his wife.

Can you tell us a bit about the different programs you offer?

KK: First and foremost, NALC provides our learners with a safe place to learn and grow. We recognize that not everyone learns in the same way or wants the same things. We do offer some classes, but not all students thrive in a classroom environment, and many have scheduling conflicts that prevent their attendance. These students have a greater opportunity for success in our tutoring programs, where each learner gets the attention needed for success, whatever that might look like for them.

The tutoring programs are made possible by working with hundreds of volunteers throughout the city. They are very popular — we currently have a waiting list of more than 250 students wanting to work with a tutor. We have a significant need for more volunteer tutors in Antioch and South Nashville.

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Two learners with the Nashville Adult Literacy Council

How much of a time commitment is it to volunteer? And if someone wants to get involved as a volunteer, what should they do?

KK: The NALC volunteer experience is rich and rewarding. You get to work directly with people learning improved literacy skills. No teaching experience is necessary. If you come with patience and a positive attitude, we will provide you with everything else you need — training, teacher guides, and learning plans. NALC has two volunteer opportunities:

Start Now is a program that allows students to get started on their learning plans while they wait for a permanent tutor. As a volunteer, you set one-hour appointments at our offices, and you are welcome to schedule as much or as little as is convenient for you. You typically work with a different student every week.

One-on-One volunteers get to work with the same student every week. You can meet in any public place that is convenient for you and your student. You typically spend two to three hours a week with your student, and we do request a six-month commitment.

As I mentioned, our greatest need for volunteers is in Antioch and South Nashville. You can get more information or sign up for a training by calling 615-298-8060 or emailing

You’re about to celebrate some of your successes with your annual potluck, right?

KK: Yes! We pause every year, just before the holiday season, to celebrate our learners and tutors. Since I joined NALC as CEO two years ago, I have been overwhelmed with the stories. Sometimes, it’s not the big success stories that get to me… it’s the little details. For example, I asked one man what was his favorite thing to do since NALC that he couldn’t do before. He didn’t even hesitate. He said, “Get the mail.”

A student in the NALC literacy program reads a book to her child.

What other sorts of changes do you see in people’s lives as a result of their newfound abilities?

KK: There was a man from Haiti. I asked him what brought him to this country, and through broken English, he told me his girlfriend had moved here. He told me — very clearly — he had always been taught to follow his heart. He said, “She is my heart. I followed her.”

There was the woman from Iraq who had been a high school biology teacher, but she struggled here because of language barriers. After working with NALC, she was able to become a citizen, vote, get a job and volunteer at Catholic Charities to help other refugee families coming to the country.

And then there was one our learners of the year, Daniel. Daniel earned his high school diploma at the age of 32. His work is manual labor, and last year, he hurt his hand. He had to have surgery. He was nervous about the surgery, but he told us that he wasn’t so nervous about losing his job… because now he knows how to read.

I could fill pages with stories from just last year. Imagine all of the stories since we were founded in 1982! This is an agency that transforms people’s lives, and the impact lasts for generations to come.

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Nashvillians: Get involved with the Nashville Adult Literacy Council on your own, anytime! Click here for details on volunteering and click here to make a donation.

Book lovers everywhere: You can donate books to the St. Luke’s Toy & Book Store now. Just visit the wish list here.

Nashville independent business owners: Don’t miss your chance to turn a busy business weekend into life-changing outreach for your Nashville neighbors — be a part of IndieNashGiving! Fill out the form here to pledge your donation and choose the nonprofit your business will support. Then use the #IndieNashGiving tag to spread the word on social media.

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The following locally owned businesses have committed to participate in IndieNashGiving, and these are their chosen beneficiaries. Look what an impact you’ll have when you shop or dine!

Arcade Nashville -> Nashville Diaper Connection
Ash Blue -> Alliance for Green Hills
Blowout Co. -> American Cancer Society
The Bookshop -> The Martha O’Bryan Center
Dozen -> Mary Parrish Center and Conexion Americas
Five Daughters Bakery -> Given Ministries
Fleet Feet –> Nashville Food Project
The Green Pheasant -> Nashville Food Project
Halcyon Bike Shop -> Oasis Center Bike Workshop
Hester and Cook -> Wonderful Life Foundation
High Garden Tea -> Walden’s Puddle
High Note Gifts -> Room in the Inn
Las Paletas -> Nashville Food Project
Levy’s -> American Cancer Society
Little Gourmand -> Monroe Harding
Little Octopus -> Nashville Food Project
Marché -> Nashville Food Project
Margot -> Nashville Food Project
Otaku Ramen -> Nashville Food Project
Pangaea -> Nashville Humane Association
The Paper Place -> Sexual Assault Center
Parnassus Books -> St. Luke’s Community House Toy & Book Store and NALC
Two Ten Jack -> The Martha O’Bryan Center
The Wine Shoppe Green Hills -> Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation
Woo Skincare & Cosmetics -> The Women’s Fund
Yeast Nashville -> East CAN

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This Thanksgiving, we’re grateful to readers, writers, word-lovers of all stripes, everyone who pats our shop dogs, and the dynamic, friendly city we’re lucky to call home. Thank you, Nashville — we love you!

Holiday hours:
Wednesday, Nov. 21 — 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Thursday, Nov. 22 — Closed for Thanksgiving
Friday, Nov. 23 — open early! – 9:30 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 23 – open early! – 9:30 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Sunday, Nov. 24 – open late! – 12 noon – 6 p.m.