September 12, 2012

Reading, Writing, and Respect: Literacy Volunteers Improve Lives

“L” IS FOR LITERACY: Congressman Rush Holt (center) was recently named a Literacy Champion in ceremonies at the Princeton Public Library to mark September as Adult Literacy Month in Mercer County. The award was made by (from left): Cheryl Kirton, executive director, and Lew Thurston president of the board of the Literacy Volunteers in Mercer County. Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes was also named a Literacy Champion at the ceremony.

Tutors, students and their families, librarians, and honored guests were among those present when Literacy Volunteers in Mercer County (LVMC) held a kick-off event marking September as Adult Literacy Month earlier this week at the Princeton Public Library.

There are over 60,000 Mercer County residents who cannot read above a fifth grade level, reported County Executive Brian Hughes. The inability to fill out a job application, read a newspaper, understand a prescription, or read a bed-time story to children are just a few of the consequences of this “problem for all of us.” Mr. Hughes read the official proclamation naming the month-long initiative and, along with Congressman Rush Holt (D-12), was honored as a “champion of literacy” at the event.

“Our goal is to heighten public awareness and increase the number of people who understand the vital role adult literacy training plays in our county’s well-being,” said an LVMC spokesperson.

LVMC offers free, confidential literacy programs. Former students, some of whom are now tutors themselves, were present at the library program to talk about the remarkable difference that literacy instruction made in their lives. Mr. Hughes also cited the record number of General Education Development (GED) diplomas that were awarded to residents at area correctional facilities this year.

LVMC students come from between 30 and 40 different countries, and range from the newly-arrived to those who have been here for 10 or 15 years or more. With the number of students now exceeding the number of available tutors these days, more tutors are needed. Mr. Holt, who was a tutor himself, described it as “some of the most fulfilling work you can do,” and jokingly took exception to the description of volunteering as “‘something you can do in your down time.’” “You have to be ON to tutor,” he emphasized as the audience laughed appreciatively.

Tutor and former student Eric Little also drew laughs with his description of getting new students to relax. “They’re so scared, you can see it in their eyes,” he said. Mr. Little owned up to being scared himself, since his students have included dentists and other professionals who received more education in their countries of origin than he can claim for himself.

The public is invited to LVMC’s open house at its headquarters on 3535 Quakerbridge Road, Suite 104, in Hamilton Township, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., on Monday, September 24. The program will include refreshments, tours, door prizes, promotions and, from 1 to 2 p.m. a model tutoring class.

Those interested in tutoring are also encouraged to take advantage of two upcoming tutor training sessions. An evening session begins Monday, October 15, and meets for five weeks from 6 to 9 p.m. A daytime session also begins October 15 and meets for five weeks from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. All classes are held at the offices of Pelletieri and Rabstein, 100 Nassau Park Boulevard, West Windsor. To sign up, call (609) 587-6027.

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