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Across the region this month, family and friends are gathering to support a great cause—by playing Scrabble in their living rooms. Now in its eleventh year, Scrabble Fest aims to raise awareness about local illiteracy rates and funds to support Literacy New York Buffalo-Niagara (LNYBN).


According to Tara Schafer, LNYBN executive director, one in five adults in Western New York reads at a fifth grade level or lower; that statistic jumps to one in three in the City of Buffalo. 


“Our community’s illiteracy rates have enormous impacts all around,” Schafer says. “For the individual, it means low-paying jobs where advancement could be difficult without proper reading and writing skills. For our community, it costs more taxpayer dollars to support individuals and families that are living paycheck to paycheck.”


During Scrabble Fest, hosts volunteer to throw a Scrabble party in their homes; they can make the party simple or elaborate, invite whomever they wish, and set their own entry fee, which is donated to LNYBN. Schafer says some are multiple-course dinner parties, while others are beer-and-popcorn gatherings. 


“Literacy is the most basic skill needed to thrive in our world today,” she says. “We hope in the midst of having fun playing a game of Scrabble with family and friends, it’s opening up a discussion about the staggering illiteracy rates in Erie and Niagara counties. That’s why we exist—to help.”


You’ll also find public Scrabble Fest gatherings around town. For instance, Resurgence Brewing Co. will host one March 3 (the entry fee includes one complimentary beverage). 


All of this wordsmithing will culminate with the Scrabble finals—held March 31 at the downtown public library—at which one winner from each party will compete to be the regional champion. 


Schafer says the event continues to grow every year, helping LNYBN offer free, one-on-one literacy tutoring to more than 350 adults a year.


“The empowerment that literacy provides an individual is limitless,” she says. “Reading can provoke so many wonderful thoughts, feelings, and opportunities that it is our goal to one day achieve a 100 percent literacy rate in our community.”



To learn more or sign up to host a Scrabble Fest party, contact Anna Nawojski, director of marketing and development, at 876-8991 or anna.nawojski@literacybuffalo.org     

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