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Literacy Worker

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Volunteer Len DeLozier knows what real power is. He sees it on a regular basis.

It's the power people get when they begin writing for the first time -- after they have learned to read. DeLozier sees students aged 15 to 90 who take that first step of recording their thoughts and ideas to paper. It is the start of an incredible journey.

For DeLozier, a literacy tutor, this is the most satisfying part of volunteering.

Literacy tutors teach reading skills to students of all ages. Most of the teaching is one-on-one. Typically, tutors work with students for an hour or so before taking a break. Group sessions may be offered as well.

Many literacy programs are part of the community's library system or school board, or they have close ties to them. Often, classroom space, learning materials and transportation are shared by the local library or school.

Helping others learn to read can be the most rewarding thing you ever do. Many of us take this simple skill for granted.

DeLozier is amazed at the courage and hard work he sees every time he volunteers. For him, the most important quality required from literacy tutors is patience.

Volunteering as a literacy tutor is not a place to be a hero, says DeLozier. The real heroes are the students.

DeLozier finds the work very satisfying. The people he has met have had a real impact on him. He says many adults hide the fact that they can't read. "The very act of coming in to the literacy center takes a lot of courage," he says.

"The volunteers are always fascinated by the amount they learn," says Helen Thomas. She works for a literacy society that teaches adults to read. "The students read books on a wide variety of subjects. Recently, one student was reading a book by Wally Lamb, another was reading about philosophy, and a third was reading about animals in a variety of Step Into Reading books."

Kelly Doherty finds teaching at an adult literacy center very rewarding. "[We] reap the rewards of helping in the fundamental crisis of illiteracy in the modern world," says Doherty. "Aside from this immediate benefit, the environment at the center provides a family-like setting, which everyone enjoys."

Steve Sherman of Literacy Volunteers of America has many special stories about volunteering. He remembers one well. He took a group of beginning readers to get their first library cards. When the students returned from the stacks, they were carrying armloads of books to take home. They were very disappointed to learn they could only take out two books at a time.

"It is a constant learning experience for me with the life experiences students bring to class," says Sherman. "This is especially rewarding. Every tutor I have ever met has heartwarming stories of success and effort that are a great inspiration."

How to Get Involved

Ask your guidance counselor whether a literacy program exists at your school. Often a school board's continuing education department has a branch that looks after adult literacy. Most libraries are also directly or indirectly involved with literacy programs in the community.

Volunteer centers in your community can also link you to literacy programs. Adult literacy has many advocates on the local and national level.

Volunteers may be required to fill out an application form, provide references and complete training. A criminal record check may also be required before you can begin volunteering.


Tips for Reading Tutors
Find tutoring advice from Literacy Connections
Search for opportunities to volunteer as a literacy tutor

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