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Literacy volunteers sought for English reading, writing help

By Staff | Apr 17, 2010

Volunteers are needed to help 60 adults in Cape Coral learn how to read and write in English, according to staff from Literacy Volunteers of Lee County.
The non-profit organization trains tutors to teach English to those with learning disabilities or literate, non-English speakers who recently moved to the area. Tess Murphy, executive director of LVLC, said a majority of the students, or approximately 90 percent, are speakers of other languages.
“In a year we probably help over 600 students and we do it with trained volunteers,” said Murphy.
Gaining literacy in the English language can take years. Murphy said the length of time a student needs to learn the language varies based on their motivation, yet tutors encourage students to participate in the library system’s English Cafe.
“It’s for adult learners to give them an opportunity to practice speaking English,” said Marilyn Graham, manager of public services for the Lee County Library System and a facilitator of an English Cafe.
A group of anywhere from five to 20 learners meet at one of the libraries and practice their English skills by talking current events, sharing cultural information or talking about all things American. Graham said facilitators try to limit the session to English only.
Participants in English Cafes speak various languages such as Spanish, German, Italian, Russian or Korean, she said. Some even speak multiple languages and use the cafe as a chance to brush up on their English.
The program is returning from a two-week break on Monday, April 19, with sessions at Cape Coral Library on Tuesdays at 6 p.m. and Fridays at 10 a.m.; East County Regional Library on Fridays at 10 a.m.; Lakes Regional Park Library on Mondays at 6 p.m. and South County Regional Library on Wednesdays at 6 p.m.
According to Murphy, full literacy has a positive impact on any community. Residents with the ability to read, speak or write English affects local safety, health and education.
Motorists are safer, for example, because all residents can read road signs and workers are more productive because language barriers are eliminated, she said. And overall health is improved when every person can communicate effectively with their doctor, while children benefit from parents who can read to them every night.
Students are referred to LVLC by friends, family, non-profit organizations or their local church. Once registered, each student is assessed to determine their ability and they pay $25 to enroll, yet scholarships are available for those who can’t afford it.
Volunteers need to be fluent in English, hold a high school diploma, be over the age of 18 and pay $30 to LVLC to cover the costs of training materials. The organization asks tutors to meet with students a minimum of one hour per week or if they are interested in teaching small classes the LVLC will set up one of no more than 10 students.
The center also asks tutors and students to meet in public places such as libraries, book stores or restaurants.
Epiphany Episcopal Church, on 2507 Del Prado Blvd., is holding an ESL tutor training session on Saturday, April 17, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
For more information or to become a volunteer, call the LVLC at 415-3621.