Wordplay benefits Literacy Volunteers

| 15 Feb 2012 | 09:41

Reading is a necessity that not everyone can take for granted If you are reading this article, there's a very good chance you take for granted the skill of literacy. Most people do. But not everyone in Sussex County can read. Non-readers are at a loss when it comes to filling out job applications, understanding what's going on in their communities and often, they cannot communicate with their children's schools. That's where Literacy Volunteers of Sussex County comes in. The organization was formed in 1984 and has now expanded to include northern Warren County, too. With 113 volunteers, nearly all of them trained to tutor clients one on one, the group carries on a tradition of teaching. Some upcoming events planned by the group are designed to highlight its work, to raise funds so it can continue its efforts and to create an aura of fun around literacy, reading and volunteering. Scrabble tournament On Sunday, Oct. 23, from 2 to 4 p.m., the Literacy Volunteers will host their multi-game tournament at the Sussex County Community College Cafeteria in Building D. Players will be matched with other players of their caliber of play. The cost is $25 per person, although tutors, senior citizens and students can attend for $15. A hand-made Scrabble Quilt donated by Susan Anderson will be raffled off. Prizes will be awarded to first, second and third place winners. Tickets for the raffle will be available at the tournament. Players will be matched with other players of their caliber of play. The volunteers will also be holding a “mini tricky tray” where donated prizes can be won. Admission to the tournament also comes with a sheet of tickets for a tricky tray raffle. Antiques appraisal Scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 12, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Sparta Ambulance Building, this event is being held in conjunction with the Sparta Historical Society and the proceeds will go to both organizations. Attendees can bring items they want to have appraised, at a fee of $5 per item. Reading is essential While learning to read in school now begins for students as early as kindergarten, some have not had that opportunity. Some immigrants come to the United States without the fundamentals of reading and writing in English. Some had not had any formal schooling. And, there are many people who've missed the boat in their schooling. People who have gotten by without really knowing how to read. They mask their lack of skills. For all these people, it's difficult to read a job application, to get a high school diploma or a drivers’ license. Literacy Volunteers work with immigrants and others to help them master the daily tasks of life, from preparing to take the GED test and studying for a drivers’ license test to reading for news and for pleasure to filling out medical forms. The service is free for anyone in Sussex and northern Warren Counties who needs help reading — whether they can’t read anything or need help to read better. Getting started Two-thirds of the people who reach out to the volunteers for help come from another country. Some are born in the United States, but are still not competent enough in English. Goals are set for each individual's need and there is no set curriculum. “This program is more fun than curriculum learning. If it takes more than one week to go over something and you have to repeat it the next week, so what,” said Carol Wilson, a tutor and former teachers’ aide. Some clients work more than one job and have families, so getting together to study is difficult, but somehow it works out, Wilson said. One client was working in a family run restaurant. When the tutor asked what would be a good time to meet and work, the client replied: “We close at 11 p.m.” Goals vary While some want to read for fluency, others have personal and specific goals. The volunteers recently helped an 86-year-old Hatian woman become a U.S. citizen. One client, although very successful in the restaurant business, is in the process of continuing his tutoring to take the GED test. He has three children in elementary school and wants to set a good example for his family. He also wants to be able to help the children with their homework. After some time working with his tutor, he said: “Boy, I really missed a lot by not going to school.” The organization holds a few orientations during the year, which run about two hours. Prospective volunteers can get a feel for what the program is all about. At that point, some feel that don't want to put that much work into it and they don’t continue on to training. Those who do commit to attending six sessions held once a week for three hours each. They are required to purchase a book for a small fee. When the training is completed, they are matched which a student. In addition to tutors and donors, the organization needs “a couple of under-paid part-time people,” according to Marguerite Gadel, a volunteer. Find out more at 973-300-9444 or visit www.literacyforyou.com.