The Mard Little Award for Adult Learner Excellence annually honors an adult who has successfully made gains in literacy at the Kalamazoo Literacy Council.
Mard Little was a student at the Kalamazoo Literacy Council from 1998-2004. She came to the literacy council at the age of 67 with a third grade education. Through the program, Mard gained the skills she needed to become an independent learner. Her success at the Kalamazoo Literacy Council gave her the courage to live out her dream of writing a book about her life.
Mard Little was born on October 18, 1931 in Prairie Point, Mississippi. Her parents were sharecroppers. Sharecropping sustained her family and was their only source of food and income. Many children in the south in this time period had to forgo school and work on their family’s farm. Such was the case for Mard. Even though she loved learning and going to school, she had to stop her education and work in the fields at the age of eight years old.
Not being able to complete school did not stop Mard from successfully growing up and navigating the ups and downs of life. Mard was grounded in her faith and belief that God was going to see her through despite her educational background. At 17, she got married and she and her husband moved up north for a better life. Even though the marriage did not last, eight wonderful children were birthed from it. As a divorcee in her 20s and a single parent, going back to school as a young adult was not ideal for her at that time in her life. The endless knowledge and wisdom that Mard had was rooted in what she learned from the Bible, church, Sunday school, and her time in prayer. She willingly shared that wisdom with her children and grandchildren and constantly instilled in them the importance of getting an education. The knowledge that Mard didn’t have, she got with the assistance of family and friends. They frequently helped her read her mail, write letters, fill out applications, and balance her check book. Mard knew deep down inside that one day when life opened the door for her, that she was going to go back to school and obtain enough education to be able to read and write on her own. She always said to her children and grandchildren, “If I had the education you all have, I could do anything!”
Mard Little’s time to go back to school came in 1997 after she retired from The Upjohn Company. She enrolled herself as a student at the Kalamazoo Literacy Council. Her goal was to be able to read her Bible well enough to successfully complete her Sunday school lessons on her own. She tutored under Dr. Yvonne Conners and later Dr. Judy Kepler in the program. As Mard learned quickly and excelled in reading, writing, and math, her confidence grew. Soon, she was able to not only complete her Sunday School lessons on her own, but she was able to independently read her mail and balance her check book on her own too.
Mard Little was a model student in the Kalamazoo Literacy Council program. During her time there she completed six reading levels. The education she received at the council gave her the courage to pursue her dream of writing her life story. Mard wanted to write a book about life to tell everyone who read it that no matter how tough life gets, no matter the obstacles, that you can overcome them With God on Your Side. With the help of her granddaughter, Candace Green, and her tutor, Dr. Judy Kepler, she saw that dream come true. Her memoir, With God on My Side was published in 2004.
The Mard Little Award for Adult Learner Excellence exemplifies how literacy paves the way to independence and living out your dreams.