When Health Literacy Media informed me that I would be receiving this year's Cecilia and Leonard Doak Health Literacy Champion Award, my first thought came in the form of a long ago memory - an image of listening to Ceci Doak sensitively speak about the lives of individuals who struggle to read and understand the complexity around them.
My second thought image was of me as a young linguistic graduate student tasked with being the moderator of a semiotics talk at Brown. The speaker and I engaged in this rarefied ( OK, you're right, obtuse) exploration of how humans interpret words both syntagmatically and paradigmatically - and wow wasn't that infinitely fascinating. I remember the large, patient audience chuckled when we were done.
I was helping out at the conference with my then fellow student and now life-long best friend Debbie Topol. The conference was the inspired product of my mentor, Dr. Peter Blackwell, then Principal of the RI School for the Deaf and the Co-Director of The Language Awareness Project at Brown, along with Dr. Naomi Baron.
After our session Deb and I trudged off to make sure that the coffee and donuts were readied for the break ( sound familiar). On the way I'm sure the small talk was our familiar riff - what's the connection between all this complex theory, all this stuff we're learning and thinking through - and the language acquisition and literacy problems of deaf young people we're teaching. (The fundamental literacy level achieved by deaf adults is far poorer than the general population and many struggle to read at 5th grade level).
To all the questions yet to be answered.