Spevak: Tutor orientation coming to Los Banos

By John SpevakMarch 22, 2013 

Making a difference is a goal many people have. Life seems more fulfilling if a person is doing something that makes a difference, especially in other people's lives.

In our community one way a person can make a difference is by helping an adult who needs to develop reading skills -- through the Merced County Library's adult literacy program. Right now this program needs more volunteers for our community.

Often people who want to make a difference are busy with other activities, like work, family, and other volunteer commitments. Fortunately persons who want to become a volunteer literacy tutor have to set aside only four hours each week -- three hours spent tutoring one adult and one hour in lesson planning.

For people intrigued by this opportunity, the coordinator of the county's Read and Succeed adult literacy program will be coming to the Los Banos Library next month to explain how the program works.

On April 16, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. in the local public library (on Seventh Street near Pacheco Boulevard), Pam Cornelison will explain what is involved in becoming a volunteer literacy tutor. People who attend the Tuesday evening orientation are under no obligation, however, to become a tutor.

"We have orientations so that people can decide if tutoring is something they really want to do," Pam said. "Some people who attend will say, 'Count me in.' Others will say, 'Let me think about it some more.'"

The Los Banos orientation is contingent upon enough residents from Los Banos, Dos Palos, Gustine and surrounding communities calling in to reserve a place.

"Normally the orientations are in Merced," said Pam. "But the literacy staff can justify the cost of coming out to Los Banos if enough people are interested."

Anyone wishing to reserve a space for the April 16 Los Banos orientation should call the local library at (209) 826-5254. If at least ten people call in and reserve a space with their name and contact number, the orientation will take place.

Those who attend the orientation and decide to become a tutor can then participate in the required Saturday training session that will take place at the Merced County Main Library on April 27 from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Some people who want to be a tutor are reluctant because they have no previous experience in tutoring, teaching or training, but according to Pam, this is not a problem, as long as the prospective tutor is 18 and has a high school diploma or GED certificate.

"In the orientation," she said, "we will explain that our literacy program provides all the training and materials. We use an organized step-by-step method that has proven successful. After the training session and mentoring, volunteers feel both confident and comfortable tutoring."

The orientation also provides plenty of time for questions and answers.

Currently there are many more adults on the county's Westside who need literacy tutoring than there are volunteer tutors. "Many Westside residents have been recently referred to the program by the county employment and human services departments," Pam said.

"There are many adults, for example, who are unable to land a job because their reading skills are not sufficient to meet the job requirements.

"So many adults have a desire to read but haven't had the opportunity," Pam continued. "Some are embarrassed by their lack of reading skills. Some have had to do some amazing 'work-arounds' to survive without being able to read effectively.

"The local literacy program is an opportunity for them to improve their reading and writing skills in a relaxed, confidential environment," Pam added, "with tutors who provide encouragement as well as helpful reading strategies."

From my perspective, becoming a volunteer literacy tutor is an excellent opportunity for anyone wanting to make a difference in the life of another person.

The need is great, the job doesn't require much time, and the experience of seeing a person become a better reader is extraordinary.

Comments on the writings of John Spevak, an Enterprise columnist for 29 years, are encouraged, and can be sent via email to john.spevak@gmail.com.

Comments on the writings of John Spevak, an Enterprise columnist for 29 years, are encouraged, and can be sent via email to john.spevak@gmail.com.

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