Our tutors often remark on how rewarding it is to teach someone to read and then see - as a direct result - a change in that person's life for the better.
Joyce is a long-term tutor for the LCFC who has had many students. Here are four of their stories:
When Joyce began tutoring David, who has Down syndrome, he could not even read "cat." He learned to decode words using phonics and was eventually able to read children's books. He was able to follow instructions well and became employed at the same restaurant for many years. He was always willing to do extra work and was very enthusiastic about his lessons. He even came with Joyce to tutor-training workshops to share his experiences in learning to read.
At the other end of the spectrum, Joyce also tutored "John." "John" was very capable and well employed, but sought help because of his desire to improve his reading. He lacked confidence in his reading ability and the coordinator who tested him could not decipher his writing. Joyce showed him the path to a higher reading level through coaching and encouragement, and he went on to graduate from college.
Another student of Joyce's was "Mary," who was too embarrassed to go to the library because she felt she could only read well enough to read children's books and thought people would laugh at her. With some tutoring and encouragement, she now reads and uses the library regularly.
Yet another of Joyce's students was a foreman with the company he worked for. He could not read, but did his job very well by memorizing all the materials to be ordered and any other details of the job. He was unable to pronounce correctly two words that he had to use frequently, and he was laughed at by his boss and co-workers. Although he did not really learn to read, his life was greatly improved by learning to pronounce those words so that he was no longer ridiculed.
Joyce says she has found great joy in helping her students. She has never considered it "work." Each student is a new challenge and comes with a different background, but each has an interest in improving themselves. She has learned from each student and they have enriched her life. "If you have a desire to help them from wherever they are to some place of betterment, to improve a person's life, all that you do will enrich their life."
Kate has been a dedicated tutor for many years and often has several students at a time.
At Kate's first lesson with her student Hae-Won, she was a little nervous. Although she had taught nursery school, working with adults was something completely new for her. Kate knew that Hae-Won spoke limited English but had not had any formal schooling since age seven. At their first meeting, they started learning about each other. Kate realized that Hae-Won was more nervous than she was! Soon the nervousness disappeared for both of them. Together they worked on Hae-Won's English reading and writing skills. Eventually Hae-Won studied for the Maryland Driver's License test and passed! With her newfound mobility, Hae-Won was able to find a job. Because of her new job, she was able to get health insurance for the first time in 20 years. Kate fondly remembers her student's accomplishments and the part she played in helping Hae-Won achieve her goals.
When Nora requested a tutor, she could read at only about the 4th grade level and couldn't read enough of a newspaper for it to make sense. She thinks she didn't learn to read well as a child because of a hearing problem that caused her to miss many sounds. With the help of her tutor, Carol, she learned to read fluently. She is now an avid reader who has continued to increase her ability on her own by constantly reading. It is a joy to her. During her time with the Literacy Council, she was the leader of the student support group, was the student representative on the Board of Directors, attended regional and national literacy conferences, and represented Frederick County adult learners in a visit to the White House. She remains an advocate for literacy and makes sure her grandchildren can read and provides books for them. She says that one of the most important and lasting benefits of learning to read has been the increase in her self-respect. It has changed her life.
Two years ago Marta's husband quit his job in Argentina and moved his family to the United States. When Marta arrived, language was the biggest problem in her daily life. She didn't understand American culture and spoke only broken English. She had so much difficulty that she barely left her house. At that point she decided to get help and start taking steps to literacy.
Together, Marta and her husband looked for an English program and found the Literacy Council. Marta was nervous about learning English, but once she met her tutor, Jeff, she was instantly at ease. Marta explained that she wanted to understand what things like "biggie size" and "to go" meant, so the two of them read books about life and culture in America.
Over the next two years, Marta made tremendous progress. Now she goes to the grocery store on her own, rides the bus by herself, and reads to her son every day.
Denise and Irene conduct a Conversation Class each week for people who need to improve their English conversation skills. Denise says:
"The Frederick Literacy Office is usually a rather quiet, calm place...except on Thursday mornings during Conversation Class when laughter, chatter, and conversation abound. Sometimes there are as few as four participants but often as many as twelve. We chat together in small groups or as a whole group, play interactive games, share stories, read and discuss the newspaper, sometimes share snacks from our respective countries, but mostly we enjoy learning about each other."
A strong bond often develops between the tutor and student. One of Denise's students returned to Japan, but about a year later she came back with her family for a visit. The visiting family and 2 other students and their families spent time with Denise and her husband at their cabin learning to kayak and fish. Denise and the student in Japan continue working together weekly via Skype. The student keeps her Idioms book next to her computer. Together they helped the student's son prepare for an international spelling bee, making sure he knew how to pronounce all the words. Denise says that as with her other students, she has never seen adults who are so motivated to learn. When the other two students also return to Japan, she plans to go visit everyone there. She says, "They are not only my students but some of my best friends!"
A little help yields effective outcomes.
Some people request help from the council for very specific needs. For instance, "Tom" was a veteran truck driver who now was required to study the Commercial Driver's License manual and pass a written test in order to keep his job. The required reading was very difficult for him. He was matched with a tutor who worked with him intensively for a brief time, and he passed the test on the first try and kept his job.
Other specific needs our tutors have helped with include things like preparing for the GED, getting a driver's license, opening a bank account, filling out applications, and preparing for the citizenship test.