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Literacy Council of Kingsport offers four specialized programs

January 15th, 2012 6:20 pm by Staff Report

Literacy Council of Kingsport offers four specialized programs

All students receive specialized one-on-one tutoring with a trained volunteer.

Formed in 1987, the Literacy Council of Kingsport works to "provide tutoring for adults and qualified children to improve their reading and writing skills and to be an advocate for literacy within the greater Kingsport community."

A non-profit organization, the Literacy Council provides four major programs: Basic Literacy Program for Adults, English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) Program, Tutoring Program for Children and Youth, and a Computer Technology Program.

The Basic Literacy Program for Adults uses a phonics-based reading program, "Laubach Way to Reading," which helps students develop basic reading and writing skills, explained Nada Weekley, executive director, Literacy Council of Kingsport. The program is very structured and uses lots of visuals to help students learn to read and write.

The ESOL Program teaches speakers of other languages to read, write, speak and understand English. Emphasis is placed on vocabulary, conversation skills and day-to-day skills needed to survive in a different culture. The Children and Youth program is based on referrals from local schools and youth organizations and is designed to work primarily with grades K-3 students who are behind in their reading skills. Thanks to a grant from AT&T, the Literacy Council now has computers in each classroom and basic training is provided to help students learn computer technology.

According to Weekley, illiteracy is still a huge problem both locally and nationally. The 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy reported that 29 percent of Americans over the age of 16 cannot read well enough to understand a newspaper story written on an eighth-grade level. The national average has risen from 14 percent to 29 percent in a decade. Weekley attributed this to the large influx of non-English speaking citizens.

Locally, the percentage is much lower than the national average, falling to 12 percent for both the state and Sullivan County since the last report.

Weekley said there are many reasons why a student comes to the Literacy Council of Kingsport for tutoring.

"Many students are encouraged by their friends and family, they are looking for a better job and need help passing a GED test and, for some, it is court-mandated for folks leaving the prison system," she explained. "Regardless of why they are here, they all have one thing in common - to lead a better life."

All students receive specialized one-on-one tutoring with a trained volunteer. Tutors do not need to be trained professionals to volunteer.

"A college degree is not required. We need volunteers with a high school degree or GED, who are compassionate, dependable and encouraging."

Compassion is key to being a volunteer tutor with the Literacy Council.

"Many of our students come to us with low self-esteem. When we train our volunteer tutors, we teach them to take the word, ‘No’, out of their vocabulary," Weekley said.

Volunteers must be able to commit at least nine to 12 months to the program because once a volunteer tutor is placed with a student, consistency is important to that student’s success.

The next training session for tutors in the Basic Literacy Program is Saturday, Feb. 11, from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., in the Mead Auditorium at the Kingsport Public Library. The Literacy Council currently has a waiting list for ESOL students, and the next training for that program will be held Tuesday, Feb. 28, from 5 to 8 p.m.

Volunteers are also needed to help with administrative office duties and with computer training. During her career, Weekley has worked with many non-profit organizations. Working at the Literacy Council has been her most rewarding, and she pointed out that all volunteers say "teaching someone to read is the most rewarding volunteer opportunity" they have ever had.

The Literacy Council is funded in part by the United Way of Greater Kingsport and through local businesses, organizations and grants. For more information, contact the Literacy Council of Kingsport at 423-392-4643.

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