Eight months ago, almost to the day, Mary* walked through the doors at the Literacy Council and asked for help. By the following week, she was meeting with one of our seasoned volunteer tutors every Tuesday.
Many people in our community may have wondered what they need to do to get help at the Literacy Council. The first step, and maybe the most difficult, is walking through the door and asking that question. We take care of it from there. We interview the student, ask them about their goals, administer an adult literacy test and work on finding the right tutor and right learning plan for them. The second step, also just as difficult, is showing up for every session. Being persistent is the key. That’s what Mary does. Every Tuesday I know she’s here because I hear Mary and her tutor, Aleta, laughing and learning in the Blue Room, just down the hall from me.
Mary’s goal on day one was to get her GED. And starting at a second grade reading level did not discourage her. Mary’s persistence has paid off. Eight months later (last week), she took the adult literacy test again. We were all thrilled to see her score: seventh grade reading level! Besides Mary, no one was more thrilled than Aleta! Congratulations to both. They did something wonderful together. Our volunteer tutors give the gift of their time and patience and are rewarded with success stories like Mary’s. What our tutors do is an amazing, selfless act that’s good for the student, our organization and the community.
We know there are many, many more people like Mary in our community that could really succeed with the help of a one-on-one tutoring. We also know there are many more people in the community who are being called to teach other adults to read. Everytime I hold a tutor training session at the Literacy Council I hear it. I said it myself when I took tutor training 12 years ago.
“Teaching someone to read is just something I’ve always wanted to do.”
And that’s all it really takes. The Literacy Council will hold a tutor training tomorrow, 2-4 p.m. November 15 at 563 W. Spring Street. If you’ve ever thought about teaching another adult to read, please call ahead at 419-223-0252 to register for the training. Or email me, Becky at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions.
To be a literacy tutor...
Other than awesome carry-in lunches, one of the things my coworkers do best is proofread. We do this all the time for each other. Because one of the worst things about writing (a grant, a press release, even this blog) is editing. And we never see our own mistakes. Grammar is one of those really tricky things. I mean why is “carry-in” hyphenated and “coworker” is not? English, in general, is pretty "flustrating." Sometimes it seems easier to just make it up. For inspiration, watch this funny TED Talk where lexicographer (dictionary writer), Erin McKean, says making words up keeps our language alive.
Even still, at the office, we need to sound educated, especially when we call ourselves educators! So we all need spell-check. But we also know it probably won’t catch a homophone like compliment/complement. My tip: I also use a really helpful tool for grammar checks called Grammarly. You basically add an extension to your browser and it watches what you type for grammar and spelling problems. Or you can just copy and paste right into the Grammarly website. If I type the the word “the” twice, the tool lets me know. I’d say that tool catches most of my writing flubs. But when it comes to content and context, my coworkers are still the best.
But what about our English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) students? I’ve heard our students say English is so difficult to learn. I’ve heard our tutors say it can be hard to teach. I believe them both. I’ve taught English and know the challenges. Idioms are one of the worst for ESOL students. For example, “By the skin of your teeth” is really gross when translated literally. At the Literacy Council, we do have some resources for teaching ESOL students. But we could always use more. One book that our newest volunteer tutor and board member, Nelly Smith, recommended is called Grammar Dimensions. And Nelly should know what works! English is not her first language, but she’s certified to teach English as a second language, is a private English tutor, speaks at least three languages and is hoping to pick up some Arabic from her new students at the Literacy Council. (Yes, we got lucky with her!) Nelly has her own copy of the book and workbook that she’s using with her students. We’d like to have a copy on our shelves too.
This is where you can help. People often ask the Literacy Council if we need books. YES, books make us happy! So we’ve started an Amazon wish list with the books and supplies that we feel would be most useful for our students and tutors. Check out our list here: Lima Literacy Amazon Wish List. If you already shop Amazon for Christmas gifts, household items, and electronics, consider adding a book from our wish list and donating it to us! As always we’re grateful for your support.