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Reading Connections seeks volunteer English tutors

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According to Reading Connections, one in five adults in Guilford County lack the skills to fill out a job application or read a children’s book and a quarter of the adult population cannot read at a high school level.

For 26 years, Reading Connections has worked in Guilford County and High Point to teach adults in need of literacy instruction.

“We serve about 800 to one thousand adult students a year, improving their reading and writing that ranges from a total non-reader who might walk into the office to somebody working on their GED,” said Associate Director Jean Pudlo.

“About half of our students are learning English as a second language. So we serve a lot of immigrants and refugees. But we also serve a lot of people who went through the school system here and still don’t have the skills that they need to succeed.”

The New Year is starting with 75 adults waiting to be matched up to volunteer tutors through Reading Connections. According to Family Literacy Program Coordinator Adriana Adams, the waiting list is unusually high.

“I think that the first thing a volunteer wants to know is that they are necessary and that if they go through and put the time and effort into training, they are going to be put to use,” said Adams. “There are people waiting for those volunteers.”

Those who volunteer to tutor can do so with a lot of freedom. Volunteers schedule classes to fit their work schedules along with the student, and volunteers can also choose if they’d prefer a student learning English as a second language or someone who already knows basic English. They can also choose to tutor multiple people at once or to be one-on-one.

“I think one of the really cool things is you don’t have to be able to come here to our office location to tutor someone, you make a plan with that person if you do one-on-one tutoring,” said Adams. “You could meet them at a library, could be at a Starbucks, could be out in the community and do your tutoring. So it doesn’t have to be a block of time to come downtown to set up and get in the parking deck.”

The materials and lessons are geared towards the goals of the students such as being able to read to their children.

“About the average reading level of someone who comes here is about 4th grade,” said Pudlo. “It’s not like a lot of people are non-readers. They did some but not enough to do what they want to do with their lives. The other thing that is very important to us at Reading Connections is to be very student centered. It’s really important to be attuned to what the student’s goals are to help them meet that. It helps them be more successful.”

The volunteers do not need a background of teaching experience, only a high school level education.

Reading Connections will provide free three-part training for volunteers consisting of one orientation and two sessions. The training provides teaching materials for the volunteers to use.

Recently the Lincoln Financial Foundation gave a $25,000 grant to expand Reading Connections’ family literacy program.

“The money allows us to expand our current program to include another nine week session at Rankin Elementary School in Greensboro,” said Adams. “This award will allow us to reach more children and families and deepen the quality of the instruction in our program.”

Though Lincoln Financial has funded other parts of Reading Connections for several years, this is the first time they have funded the family literacy program.

For volunteers interested in working with children, they could also be a part of the family literacy program. They can also strive to help people who were like Adams’ father.

“My father is a Cuban immigrant and so when I first thought about working here, that was one of my first pushes to go ‘okay, this is something cool,’ because this didn’t exist when he came to this country,” said Adams.

“Even through my eyes of having someone in my family who was an immigrant who didn’t know English, I still didn’t realize what a privilege being able to read is and how it makes my life so much easier.”

Adams and Pudlo believe the most rewarding part of working with Reading Connections is to see the growth in their students.

“We had a woman who came into our program in the fall at Rankin and she had just been here for about six months,” said Adams. “She had an eight-year-old and a three-year-old and no English, none.

“About three, four weeks into our program, she told us that she had gone out and gotten a job waiting tables. She told them that she would do it but she wanted to still be able to come to family literacy on those nights because it was helping her.

“She also got the confidence she needs and put in an application for her daughter to go to preschool. These are all things she would’ve probably just stayed in her home and not done and that cycle would have just continued on to possibly her children so to see someone go from closed to just really open and see their own possibilities is an amazing thing.”

Want to volunteer? All sessions will be located at 122 North Elm Street on the 8th floor.

Orientation –– Thursday, January 12 from 5:30-7:30 pm
Session I –– Tuesday, January 17 from 5:30-8:30 pm
Session II –– Thursday, January 19 from 5:30-8:30 pm
Learn more at www.readingconnections.org.

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