The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

January 10, 2013

Seeking assistance

Volunteers help literacy program

BY CAROL ROEHM
Commercial-News

DANVILLE — Danville Area Community College’s Reader’s Route seeks volunteer tutors to help adults learn to read, write and figure math better.

A tutor training session will begin this month, but this time the Reader’s Route has teamed up with the Second Church of Christ in Danville to provide the training for volunteer tutors who want to help adults with basic skills or English as a Second Language.

Kathy Kumler, involvement coordinator at the Second Church of Christ, said the church recently launched an initiative so its members could become more involved in church and in the community.

“We want to work in the community and get our church people more active and involved in the church and outside of church,” she said.

After conducting an online search of local organizations, Kumler said the church decided to offer to help the Reader’s Route, a literacy program provided by DACC’s adult education division.

Scott Heatherton, Reader’s Route coordinator and tutor recruiter, said he is pleased “the church approached us and wanted to be a part of the community outreach program.

“We are trying to reach church members and other members from the community to become tutors,” he said. “I would like to do this with other churches.”

The volunteer tutor training sessions will be offered from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Saturdays, Jan. 19 and 26, and Feb. 2, at the Second Church of Christ, 3350 E. Voorhees St. Space is limited to 16 participants, and all 18 hours of training are required.

Kumler said interested individuals can sign up at the church or call.

“We have eight people signed up so far,” she said. “This is open to the public, too.”

The Reader’s Route pairs volunteer literacy tutors with adults who are 16 years or older and who read below the ninth-grade level.

The Illinois Secretary of State, whose office funds the project, requires volunteers to complete 18 hours of training before becoming tutors.

Heatherton said the GED test is changing in the next year, so the need for tutors to prepare basic education students is greater than ever.

“With the change in the new GED test, there’s been an increase in people needing our help,” he said.

“They (students) have the basic skills, but they’re operating at a skill level that won’t allow them to pass the GED,” he said.

The tutors assist students with reading, writing and math as well as comprehension and word recognition.

Not only is the venue for the tutor training going to be different this time, but so is the training curriculum.

“We rewrote the tutor training so the tutor training is not only in the classroom,” Heatherton said. “So it’s more hours, but it’s like a practicum in which they will observe other tutors.”

Heatherton’s hope is the new tutor training will encourage interested individuals and build their confidence that they can tutor.

“The unknown is what scares them away,” he said of potential tutors. “But by observing a tutoring session, they can see if they want to do this, plus they can see a tutoring session in action.”

Heatherton said prospective volunteer tutors also will receive more instruction on who the students are.

“Tutors also will get to play the role of the student,” he said.

Currently, the program boasts 75 students.

“We’re hoping to get 45 tutors,” Heatherton said.

The requirements to be a volunteer tutor include having completed high school themselves, being at least 18 years old, having the desire to be a tutor and being flexible. Starting this year, prospective tutors will submit to a background check and participate in an hour-long session on sexual harassment.

Tutors do not have to be bilingual.

“Our best tutors don’t speak a second language,” Heatherton said. “They just have a way with students to help them understand the English necessary for everyday life.

“Some are retired teachers, some are not,” he said of past tutors. “I’ve had a retired business owner and a retired engineer as tutors.”

To register

To register for volunteer tutor training sessions, call Scott Heatherton at 443-8785 or Kathy Kumler at 442-7306 or e-mail sheather@dacc.edu.