Great Plains Literacy Council Administrative Assistant Elsa L. Garcia (left) enrolled Ayshen Oner Sayil, a native of Turkey, as an adult learner of the English language. Ayshen has been assigned to meet weekly with her volunteer tutor Mary Bitney at the Altus Air Force Base Library. Since Ayshen will return to her country to complete a masters’ degree in nursing, Mrs. Bitney will use health curriculum in teaching English. The local literacy program impacts adult learners, who come from a variety of countries and have various goals in learning to speak, read, or write English better.
The beginning of a new school year is often hectic, but is also a meaningful time for adults to recognize and celebrate the value of learning. International Literacy Day, observed worldwide on September 8, and the National Adult Education & Family Literacy Week during September 10-16 were opportunities to focus on the issue of literacy, which affects children and adults throughout the world. The Great Plains Literacy Council, a non-profit educational organization that supports efforts to help adult learners in Jackson County and Harmon County, recognized these important celebrations of learning.
The literacy council’s community relations committee assigned all board members and staff to distribute posters recruiting tutors and adult learners during these celebrations. The posters stated “The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows!” and featured contact information.
The Great Plains Literacy Council hosted a Tutor Talk event to kick-off the celebrations on September 7 at the Altus Public Library meeting room. Volunteer tutors were able to hear an update on some new procedures, to promote family reading, and to see some new ESL and computer resources. Tutors unable to attend scheduled another time to receive the information, plus all tutors received a literacy notepad.
During September 10-16, all adult learners and tutors received some refreshments at their tutoring locations, including a box of raisins with the message “Together We’re Raisin’ Literacy”. The adult learners selected free children’s books to read to their children or grandchildren.
The Great Plains Literacy Council arranged a window display at the Altus Public Library to emphasis the value of family literacy. The display emphasizes the single greatest thing parents can do to insure their children’s success is to read to them every day.
“The United Nations estimates that one-fifth of the world’s adult population cannot read or write,” said Ryan Howard, board president of the Great Plains Literacy Council. “Illiteracy is not only a problem in other countries, but also here in our country, state and community.”
More than one million Oklahoma adults function at the lowest two literacy levels, according to the National Assessment of Adult Literacy. This means that these adults do not have the functional literacy skills necessary to perform the most basic tasks such as complete a job application or understand instructions from medical care providers.
“Because of these needs,” stated Howard, “the literacy council has utilized the one-to-one or small class tutoring for adults with trained volunteers since 1985.”
The Great Plains Literacy Council praises the dedication of volunteer literacy tutors. In the past year, 36 active tutors opened up a new world by teaching their students to read better. These tutors donated over 2,300 hours to the program. Many tutors have commented that while teaching someone to read, write or speak English, the tutors were surprised what they learned also. There is always a need for more volunteers.
The literacy council is proud of the achievements of the 100 adult learners this past year. On November 5, the annual Literacy Appreciation Luncheon and Program will be hosted by the board and staff to recognize the progress of adult learners. Whether getting a driver’s license, reading a book to a child, or getting US citizenship, all learners have a variety of personal goals that have required some assistance and encouragement from literacy volunteers.
The State Legislature, the Oklahoma Department of Libraries, the Priddy Foundation, and the Rural Oklahoma Community Foundation have also been supportive of literacy and provided grant funding to Great Plains Literacy Council and the Southern Prairie Library System for educational literacy programs. Individual and organizational donations have been of value to the literacy council.
Here are some ways to share literacy with family, friends and the community:
•Read books every day, and let people see you do it. You may be a role model (to your child, your niece or nephew, or some other individual in your family or circle of acquaintances).
•Get a library card which is a passport to travel to other places and times through the pages of a book.
•Talk about reading. Ask questions about what the individuals in your life are reading.
•Get involved with the local literacy programs at the Altus and Hollis Public Libraries, which encourage reading in your community. See what you can do to help. Feel welcome to call the Great Plains Literacy Council at 477-2890 or stop by the Altus Public Library (421 N. Hudson) or the Hollis Public Library (W. Broadway and 2nd) for a visit.