Although my area of specialty is children’s literacy, adult literacy is becoming more of an issue, particularly as more immigrants come into the country without speaking or reading English. To their credit, many of them quickly learn enough spoken English to survive but to cross that barrier of mere existence (which may be what they came from in their native country), they need to be able to communicate and to comprehend the information-rich society they have chosen to become a part of.
If you are looking for a chance to work with these types of adult learners, here are a few places to begin:
The National Literacy Hotline, part of National Center of Adult Literacy, a U.S. Department of Education-established program: Call 1-800-228-8813 between the hours of 9AM and 6PM EST Monday through Friday. They will put you in contact with agencies or groups in your area that offer adult literacy programs.
The National Institute for Literacy also has an online directory. By entering your local zip code, you can find those organizations with locations closest to you. If you do not know how to use a computer and the Internet, visit your local public library and ask for help. The reference area of most public libraries is equipped to answer your questions and get you started.
Social Service Agencies: Call the local United Way agency in your area. They often have links to local social services agencies that offer adult literacy classes or at least make connections between tutors and those who need help.
Local Colleges and Universities: Special classes are offered in the basics of English. Some of these programs are free to new citizens or immigrants who have lived in the area less then a year. Others charge a fee to cover teachers and materials.
Local School Districts: An increasing number of schools are realizing that their students will benefit tremendously when their parents are able to read and speak English. Call your local school board for details or check with the Council Parent Teachers Organization in your area.
If you live in a small community where these types of resources are limited, don’t worry. Talk with your priest or pastor at the local church. If they do not offer a class, he or she may be able to put you in touch with a person who needs help. Increasingly, it is helpful to be able to speak another language and to be onnected with a person from that country to maximize your skills.
Have the courage to take that first step, connect with another person and help him or her learn to function in American society and communicate effectively. While you’re at it, suggest that a good way for parents to practice their reading skills is to read with their child. Light the spark of literacy and encourage others to pass it on!
As an independent literacy consultant, Cathy Puett Miller has designed a model for a volunteer-based tutoring program for at-risk readers (and tutors a child herself in one of the ongoing programs). Schools and PTA’s implementing this model have won awards and grants and she’s always looking for new opportunities to introduce the concepts. She works with profit and non-profit groups interested in supporting and promoting literacy with children as well as in parent education (teaching moms and dads how to work a bit of reading experience into everyday life). Visit her free-lance work on www.parenthood.com (enter Cathy’s full name in the search command) and on www.familynetwork.com (look for her under “Experts” or CathyPM) and look for her at upcoming children’s literature conferences and PTA workshops in the metro-Atlanta, GA area.
CATHY PUETT MILLER
INDEPENDENT LITERACY CONSULTANT
2740 Woodridge Chase, Canton, GA 30114770-345-3001