This Insights article was contributed by Geneva Reid, Cape Fear Literacy Council volunteer.
When we moved from Memphis to Wilmington 13 years ago, I was eager to locate the Literacy Council and volunteer as a tutor.
I had been inspired by a University of Memphis report revealing that one third of the adult population in Memphis could not read at a functional level but I did not volunteer there because we were planning to move. I did, however, volunteer at Cape Fear Literacy Council the second week we were in Wilmington.
“I read the Bible in my church Sunday, and no one made fun of me.”
Back in 2004, my very first student was an elderly grandmother who was a beginning reader. She wanted to learn to read the Bible so she could read it aloud in her church.
Working together, we discovered a process that would enable her to achieve that goal. For our one-on-one meetings, she would bring in her upcoming Sunday School lesson, and we would spend part of each session learning to read the appropriate Bible verses.
In addition, we worked on breaking down words (phonics), increasing vocabulary and reading comprehension using the skill books the Literacy Council provided.
With lots of coaching and practice, after a few months, she felt confident enough to volunteer to read aloud at church and was so very, very proud when other members of her Sunday School class told her she had done a good job.
“I read street signs today: Market, Front, Second, Third.”
Three weeks later:
“I can string words together now.”
Two years later, when asked if he felt he was really reading
now rather than just decoding, my student replied, “I’ve been reading for real for months now. I can read TV Guide
, my text messages and even articles in the newspaper.”
My current student is a successful businessman who tested at a fourth-grade reading level when he was assigned to me about two years ago. One of the first stories he shared with me was that his family wanted to go on a cruise, but he told them he could not possibly go because he would not be able to read the signs and could not move around on the boat. He was, to say the least, frustrated at not being able to do things those of us who read well simply take for granted.
He and I have been meeting twice each week, for about 1.5 hours each time, and have made steady progress through the skill books assigned by the Literacy Council. He has progressed more than three full grade levels… while still running a business full-time and being an involved family man.
In addition to the work books, he has read simplified versions of A Christmas Carol, The Call of the Wild
and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
We are now reading the regular edition of To Kill A Mockingbird
, his own request. Two Christmases ago, he took his youngest daughter to Thalian Hall to see A Christmas Carol.
He was a proud father indeed.
Do you, like me, believe that everyone needs to be able to read well enough to order from a menu, read a recipe, read warning labels and even read text messages?
If you think you would like to help someone improve their functional literacy, get a better job, get a GED or read stories to their children or grandchildren, please consider volunteering to tutor at the Cape Fear Literacy Council. It just may prove to be one of the most challenging, inspirational and rewarding experiences in all of your work as a volunteer and a good neighbor.
To volunteer, call (910) 251-0911 or go to www.cfliteracy.org
Geneva Reid joined the Cape Fear Literacy Council Training Team in 2005, after tutoring for about a year. Because of her love for teaching and empathy with adults who struggle every day to cope with poor reading skills, she continues to tutor and help train those wonderful people who volunteer to tutor. While the work can be challenging, she feels strongly that the joy of hearing someone read fluently – and especially hearing them answer questions correctly about what they read – is ample reward for the effort. Before moving to Wilmington in 2004, she was on the faculty of the Department of English at the University of Memphis and then taught leadership classes at the Federal Express Leadership Institute in Memphis.
Yasmin Tomkinson came to the Cape Fear Literacy Council as a volunteer tutor in 2002. It was a great experience, and she was very pleased to join the staff in 2004. She is now the Executive Director and enjoys working with adult learners and the volunteers who help them reach their goals. Yasmin studied Education and American History at Vassar College and got an MBA with a concentration in Non-Profit Management from Boston University. She worked for education-focused non-profits in rural Utah, Los Angeles, Baltimore, and Boston before moving to Wilmington.