GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. — Thousands of people in Guilford County are struggling with literacy, and a local organization is trying to help.
Reading Connections has had its doors open in Guilford County since 1990. Right now in Guilford County, the organization says one in five adults lack the literacy to fill out a job application or read a children’s book.
“So one in five adults struggles in this area, and we like to think about it as the Greensboro Coliseum complex three times over, so that’s a really great need. And we certainly need volunteer tutors to help us so we can serve our community even better,” Karen Evans said. Evans is the volunteer coordinator and adult literacy instructor at Reading Connections.
It doesn’t just help with reading books. It helps with a lot of basic things people might not think twice about every day.
“It’s how to navigate your world. It’s how you read the prescription label on the medication for you and your child. It’s little things like that that we take for granted every single day,” Evans said.
The organization also offers classes for math skills, preparation for high school equivalency exams, computer literacy and family literacy to make sure parents and students have these important life skills.
“When a parent has a low level of literacy, there’s a high indication that the same will be true for the child as well,” she said. “So the adults come and they receive instruction, so that’s either ABE instruction for native speakers or ESOL instruction for non-native speakers. And then the kids are there as well and they receive instruction as well in separate classrooms.”
There’s a big variety of people who come to the organization for help. Right now, of the 41 people on the waiting list for a tutor, around 25 are native English speakers and around 15 learned English as a second language.
“A lot of them in our immigrant and refugee community, they have certain of barriers in their life. They are struggling. They want to be able to read to their children. They want to be able to get a better job. They want to fill out an application online to get that better job. They want to be able to follow their GPS and get around town. And then we have a lot of our native speakers that for whatever reason may have gotten pushed through high school, and they might not have the literacy skills they need to navigate their worlds. And for them, there might be some kind of shame; they might have hid this from their family, their friends, their coworkers,” Evans said.
Tutors do not need a background in education or teaching, though about 20% of their volunteer tutors do. The most important thing is being passionate about reading, math, writing or computers, and helping these people in the community. Tutors and the students are expected to meet once or twice a week in a public place from two to four hours. The goal is for students to achieve 100 hours of instruction to receive the best results.
If you are interested in becoming a tutor or you could use help from Reading Connections, you can call (336) 230-2223 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The next orientation begins on Monday, Jan. 13.