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January 14, 2014

Oakland Literacy Council seeks volunteer literacy tutors

By Mary Beth Almond
C & G Staff Writer

ROCHESTER — It’s a new year, and those who resolved to give back in 2014 have the chance to make a difference in the life of another by helping someone learn to read.

The Oakland Literacy Council, a public service organization that provides free basic reading and English language instruction to adult residents of Oakland County, is currently looking for volunteer tutors.

“We’re looking for anyone who wants to help change someone’s life, that wants to open their world through words, that loves to read and can’t imagine not being able to do so themselves,” said Julie Hoensheid, the council’s literacy services coordinator and a volunteer tutor. “If you think about all the reading that we do in a day, whether it’s reading a recipe or a prescription label or a book to a child — to give that gift to someone is the most incredible thing you can do.”

Those interested in volunteering can attend tutor training sessions 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Jan. 21 and 23 at the Rochester Hills Public Library. The training sessions will prepare people to teach reading, writing and speaking skills to Oakland County adults who are currently reading below the ninth-grade level. Registration is required, and participants must pay a fee of $20 for their instructional and reference materials.

“The tutor training covers everything you’ll need to know about working with an adult student … lesson planning, learning styles, strategies and skills, and tools to use with their student,” Hoensheid said.

Upon completing the training, volunteer tutors are matched with a student. The pairs then meet at mutually convenient, public facilities — most often their local library, Hoensheid said — for a minimum of two hours per week. Tutors also have the opportunity to meet with their peers and council faculty members in continuing informal meetings and formal workshops.

“We currently have 303 assigned students who are working with 288 assigned tutors all throughout Oakland County,” she said. “We’re very proud of that number.”

Shari Barrick, the council’s operations manager, said volunteer tutors must be 18 and older.

“Our oldest tutor is 89, and we’ve had 18-year-old tutors right out of school that wanted to start giving back. We have lawyers, we have housewives, we have graphic artists, we have retired schoolteachers, accountants — everything,” she said.

Something all tutors have in common is their response to the program, according to Barrick.

“You would expect feedback out of the students — you know, ‘It changed my life,’ or ‘I can grocery shop,’ or ‘I passed my GED’ — but what I didn’t expect was that the tutors — and some tutors have two or three students — feel so rewarded by it,” she said.

Since its founding in 1984, Hoensheid said, the council has helped more than 12,000 county residents improve their English, reading and comprehension skills.

“We have such a dedicated core of volunteers that help us achieve that,” she said.

A second tutor training session will be held 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Feb. 3 and 5 at Orchard United Methodist Church in Farmington Hills.

For more information or to enroll in either workshop, call (248) 253-1617.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Mary Beth Almond at malmond@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1060.