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Helping Learners Improve Themselves

A long-time Literacy Council tutor, Joyce finds great joy in helping her students and never considers it work. She says that although every student comes with different challenges and different backgrounds, all of them share a desire to improve themselves. Joyce tells these stories about three of her students.

“John” was very capable and well employed but lacked confidence in his reading ability. The coordinator who tested him could not decipher his writing. Joyce showed John the path to a higher reading level through coaching and encouragement, and he went on to graduate from college.

“Mary” was too embarrassed to go to the library because she could read only children’s books and thought people would laugh at her. She now reads well and uses the library regularly.

“Phil” was a foreman with a painting company. He could not read and relied on memorization to successfully perform his job. He sought help when his boss and co-workers laughed at him because he couldn’t correctly pronounce two words that he had to use frequently. Although Phil did not really learn to read, mastering those two words greatly enhanced his work life.

Meet More Students & Their Tutors

At the time “Nora” requested a tutor she could read at only about the 4th grade level, probably because of a hearing problem that had caused her to miss many sounds as a child. With Carol’s help, Nora learned to read fluently and boosted her ability by constantly reading on her own. During her time with the Literacy Council, Nora was the student support group leader and the student representative on the Board of Directors, attended regional and national literacy conferences, and represented Frederick County adult learners at a visit to the White House. She remains an advocate for literacy and makes sure her grandchildren are able readers. Nora says that gaining self-respect has been one of the greatest benefits of learning to read.


Becoming an Avid Reader

When “Marta” and her husband relocated their family from Argentina to the United States, the language barrier was her biggest challenge. She spoke only broken English and didn’t understand American culture—to the point that she rarely left her house. Together the couple found the Literacy Council. Marta was instantly at ease with her tutor, Jeff. Marta explained that she wanted to understand what phrases like “biggie size” and “to go” meant, so the two of them read books about life and culture in America. Over the next two years, Marta made tremendous progress. She now goes to the grocery store and rides the bus by herself and also reads to her son every day.


Adapting to a Different Culture

Tutor and student often develop a strong bond. “Atsuko,” one of Denise’s students, returned to Japan and came back a year later with her family for a visit. Along with two of Denise’s other Japanese students and their families, they vacationed with Denise and her husband at their cabin, learning to kayak and fish. Now back in Japan, where she keeps her idioms book next to her computer, Atsuko continues working with Denise via Skype. Together they helped Atsuko’s son prepare for an international spelling bee. When the other students return to Japan, Denise plans to visit. “They are some of my best friends!”


Forming New Friendships

Some people request the Literacy Council’s help with very specific needs. For instance, “Tom” was a veteran truck driver who was required to study the Commercial Driver’s License manual and pass a written test in order to keep his job. The reading was very difficult for him. After working intensively with a tutor for a short time, Tom passed the test on the first try and kept his job. Our tutors have also helped students prepare for the GED, get a driver’s license, open a bank account, fill out applications, and prepare for the U.S. citizenship test.


Achieving Personal Goals

“Jacqueline,” a physician in her native country, left Syria because of the war. After 1-1/2 years of support from the Literacy Council and her tutor Denise, she has prevailed over many challenges. “My spoken English has improved, I can speak on my behalf, I can manage most of my needs, and I am closer to my Frederick community. I even feel I am a part of it. I do weekly community care volunteering at nursing homes. I also think I will have more opportunities for a job and for economic independence. I believe the Literacy Council is one of the best gates for a better future.”


Feeling Part of the Community

“Louisa” was her tutor Walt’s first student. When she immigrated to the United States from Bangladesh over 21 years ago, she knew no English but had a strong desire to learn. Louisa approached her children’s school principal, who suggested that she volunteer at school where she could pick up bits of language. That’s exactly what she did. Voicing her wish to learn English was a considerable triumph as Louisa, like other young Bangladeshi women, hadn’t graduated from high school. Louisa’s current goal is to earn a General Educational Diploma (GED). She and Walt meet twice a week to work on grammar and study mathematics, a subject in which Walt says Louisa is gifted. Though she has had no advanced education, Louisa landed her first job in electronics assembly.


From No English to First Job

“Ya Ya” grew up in Ghana working in the fields of his family’s plantain and cattle farm, and he did not go to school. He is now 37 years old and living in Frederick with his family. He speaks English but is unable to read and write. He gets up at 4:30 a.m. for his job delivering packages. He drives about 150 miles a day, and often doesn’t finish deliveries until 4:30 p.m. He meets with his tutor three times weekly, occasionally dozing off during the lesson. Ya Ya remains committed: “It’s your life at stake. If you can’t read or write, you can’t do anything. I have two kids, and I have to learn to read and write so I can direct them in the right way….” Ya Ya now reads at about a second grade level and is able to read some names and words on the delivery manifests at work and some street signs. He intends to be ready to help his children when they begin to read and eventually explore more educational opportunities for himself.

“Ya Ya”

Reading to be a Good Father

Every year for 10 years, Cho Cho entered the lottery for a U.S. visa. In 2013 she was finally selected. Though she has a degree in math from a college in her native Myanmar (Burma), here she has worked as a babysitter, sushi maker, and hotel housekeeper. With the help of Sandy, her LCFC tutor, Cho Cho has made great strides in learning English. Because of this has been able to obtain health insurance, file income taxes, obtain credit, get a driver’s license, and (through Second Chances Garage) buy a used car. Her next goals are to further her education, get a better job, and buy a house.

Cho Cho

Winning the Lottery

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