Youth Literacy Program: Summer Reading Initiative Update

 

This is an exciting time for the Youth Literacy Program!  Our collaboration with YTL (Youth Transformed for Life) was initiated through conversations over the past six or seven months about how to reach more grade school students of color. Making those connections through the regular school year had its own set of challenges.  Knowing that the impact of COVID left students with even larger gaps in reading levels, the Literacy Together team decided to find a way to step up. 

Janell Lassiter and Parris Finley, co-directors of YTL, invited Literacy Together to provide a reading/literacy component to all of the campers in their summer program. Cindy Threlkeld, executive director at Literacy Together saw this opportunity as a win-win collaboration. We would make this a paid internship and prioritize the recruitment of young adults of color as tutors. LuAnn Arena went to work raising funds and some great partners stepped up:  WNC Bridge FoundationTD Charitable FoundationDollar General; and WNC Returned Peace Corps VolunteersMackenzie Bennett was contracted to set the recruitment process in motion, and Rebecca Massey from Literacy Together joined the team to help plan the tutor training. 

VOILA!! We hired fourteen of the most amazing young people in our city. They have been trained in how to be an effective tutor using multi-sensory techniques, and eagerly started working directly with campers three mornings a week. The students are excited to get this one-on-one time and have bonded quickly with the interns.  Stay tuned for more updates on how this goes over the next eight weeks!

Here’s a picture of our team of interns! Read more about the Summer Reading Initiative.

Written by Tonya Johnson, director of the Youth Literacy Program.

 
 

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Bob’s success story as an Adult Literacy student: “I am going to get this!”

 
 
Bob came to the Adult Literacy Program in 2019 to work on his basic literacy skills. He is a single father devoted to his three kids. Like most parents in our program, he enrolled to improve his literacy not just for himself but for his children. While reading had always been a challenge for Bob, math, and mechanics had come easily. So he used that expertise to build a career as a mechanic, and that is how he supported his family until he found himself unemployed for the first time. That’s when he came to Literacy Together. He planned to strengthen his literacy to regain employment, to improve his ability to support his children in school, and to achieve more independence and opportunity in his life. Keep reading about Bob’s inspirational success story!

When Bob met Tim, the retired lawyer who would be his new tutor, they connected immediately despite their differences. Bob’s energetic personality complements Tim’s somewhat controlled demeanor. They learn from each other and often surprise each other in their sessions. Bob and Tim would likely never have crossed paths if they had not met at Literacy Together, but this partnership has changed both of their lives and perspectives.

During the pandemic and consequential shutdowns, Tim and Bob both wanted to keep their momentum going. Bob lives in a rural community with no home computer, but they each had a textbook, a phone, and every intention of moving forward, so they made it work. Since he began in 2019, Bob has completed over half of the Wilson Reading System and moved up to the next level in his annual literacy test. He shows no signs of stopping. Tim says, “I think that I have it too easy.  Bob may have the best student want-to-learn attitude ever. As I have said before, he exclaims every session about getting a word that he never got before. And as he said last time with a certain fierceness, ‘I am going to get this!'”  
 

Please watch this video to learn more about Bob’s success story as an Adult Literacy student and the work he’s doing with Tim.

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Youth literacy success story: Izzy and Neomi

This is the success story of the Youth Literacy Program student Izzy told by her mother Neomi. Neomi came to the Youth Literacy Program when Izzy was diagnosed with a learning difference at the age of 7.

Youth Literacy improves the academic achievement of children and teens from low-income families who struggle with literacy skills.  The project trains tutors who provide free, one-on-one instruction in reading, writing, and spelling.  This program serves approximately 50 students per year. 

Are you interested in becoming a tutor? Youth Literacy tutors work with children from low-income families who read, write, and/or spell below grade level. Tutors in this program complete an initial orientation and a 15-hour training.

They then receive follow-up support and the option to attend in-service trainings throughout their tutoring commitment. Tutors in this program work with their students twice per week for 50 minutes each session. Youth Literacy tutors commit to working with their students for at least one school year.

Youth Literacy tutors receive 15 hours of training in research-based reading instruction, which incorporates phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency, comprehension, spelling & written expression. The training is Orton-Gillingham-based, emphasizing the importance of direct instruction, engaging all the senses in learning, and presenting information in a structured, sequential format targeting the student’s individual needs. Wilson Reading System® materials guide the lesson planning process.

Thanks, Neomi, for sharing Izzy’s youth literacy success story and for encouraging people to volunteer!

 

 

 

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ESOL success story: Eleven of our students have become US citizens so far this year!

 
 

Some of Literacy Together’s adult learners are eligible to apply for US citizenship One of the many ways their tutors can support them is by helping them prepare for the naturalization exam, which tests their English proficiency in listening, speaking, reading, and writing, as well as their knowledge of US history and civics. Each year we have around thirty students studying for the exam, and in the course of a given year, about ten of them will be scheduled to take the test. Eleven of our students have become US citizens so far this year! Congratulations to all of them! Here is Carmen, who talks a little bit about her ESOL success story in the video below.

 

Would you like to become an ESOL tutor to support a neighbor who wants to become a US citizen and write their own success story?

The English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program teaches oral English, reading, and writing to adults who have immigrated to the U.S. from around the world. ESOL is the largest program at Literacy Together, serving approximately 250 students annually. Our students’ most common goals in learning English are to improve their employment prospects, help their children in school, and pass the U.S. Naturalization exam.

Each student works with a trained volunteer tutor, either individually or in a small group of up to ten people. Tutoring takes place for two hours each week at times and locations that are mutually convenient for students and tutors. Tutors may choose to teach one (1) two-hour session or two (2) one-hour sessions each week and may do so online or in person.
 

ESOL students with a short-term goal of becoming United States citizens may choose to receive citizenship-specific tutoring and learning materials in the ESOL program. This curriculum focuses on U.S. history and civics, as well as the rights and responsibilities of citizenship and civic participation. One hundred percent of students who received citizenship tutoring from Literacy Together and took the U.S. Naturalization Exam have passed it! 

 
 
 
 

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Two approaches to family literacy

 
 
In Literacy Together’s strategic plan for 2020-2025, one of the new areas we identified for possible expansion of services was family literacy – which can take a variety of forms but has as its core component the involvement of both children and parents in literacy activities.
 
One way we’ve begun to implement this is through a partnership with the Verner Center for Early Learning, a local Early Head Start and pre-K program that provides both on-site and home-based literacy services to children, many of whose parents are immigrants. We have trained several of their teaching staff as ESOL instructors, and they’re now providing free English classes to parents of the children served by Verner. 

Another novel approach has evolved more organically and consists of Taylor and Becky, two members of one family tutoring three members of another family. This is their family literacy story.

Taylor had just moved back to Buncombe County when he came to one of our online volunteer orientation meetings in December. He had traveled in many Spanish-speaking countries,  he had taught English before, and he had the desire to bring his expertise to our community. After finishing his training he was matched with  Lázaro, “a student who is wonderful, he’s very engaged, he’s very excited to learn.”  

During their first lesson together, Lázaro asked him if he could speak with his wife for a moment, and that’s how Taylor met Gloria, who had been on the ESOL waiting list for some time. Gloria asked Taylor if he’d be willing to teach her. “Absolutely,” was his answer and, since then, he’s been teaching the couple separately, meeting each one of them once a week for two hours.  

Gigi, the daughter of Lázaro and Gloria, is a charismatic fourth-grader who would often join her parents’ classes to help them. Taylor’s mom, Becky, is a Title 1 Reading Teacher at a local elementary school, and she was thrilled when her son asked her if she would be willing to help Gigi with her reading and her English. She meets with Gigi twice a week for 30 minutes.  Watch the video to learn more about how this family is supporting another family and how their connection is blossoming!

 
 
 

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