[Home Page] [This Week] [Classifieds] [Legals] [Obituaries] [Newsstands] [Subscriptions] [Advertising] [Deadlines] [About Us] [FAQ] [Archives] [Community Links] [Contact Us]

Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, March 17, 2011

“A two-way street”
Volunteers tutor students in English, enriching themselves

By Anne Hayden

GUILDERLAND — One out of five people in the Capital Region reads at or below a fifth-grade level, according to Sue Hensley-Cushing, associate director of Literacy New York — Greater Capital Region.

Literacy New York hopes to lower that number with a new two-year, $28,000 grant awarded to the Guilderland Public Library by the New York State Library.

Literacy New York is offering training for volunteer tutors and small group leaders throughout the next month; Hensley-Cushing said 40 people should be finishing the training in the next two to three weeks.

The small-group training will be especially beneficial, she said, because the waiting list of students is so long. With groups, the program will be able to reach more people than it does with one-on-one lessons.

Right now, Hensley-Cushing said, Literacy New York is only able to handle about 400 students annually, due to limited funding.

“We can only meet a fraction of the needs,” she said. Roughly 20 individuals in Guilderland receive tutoring through the program at this time. Lessons are provided for those who are learning English as a second language; studying for the General Educational Development (GED) Test; applying for citizenship; taking the English as a foreign language test to apply to university; or learning to read at or above basic level.

“Guilderland is a center for many people from different countries…Libraries are used by so many people as a safe and reliable place to information, for meeting, for getting their questions answered in a non-judgmental way,” said Maria Buhl, Adult Services librarian.

“We tutor people based specifically on what they need,” said June O’Connor, an instructor, at a tutor orientation this week.

“You won’t necessarily be sharing your favorite book, you will be building direct needs vocabulary,” O’Connor told the tutors. For example, she said, a mother might need help communicating with the school district, and therefore would need to focus on specific, school-related dialogue. A waiter might need help learning restaurant vocabulary.

Each student is given an “intake assessment” to determine specific needs. Tutors fill out a form about themselves, including their occupations and hobbies, and student-tutor matches are made based on certain similarities. A nurse learning to speak or read and write English might be matched with a tutor who is also a nurse.

Students and tutors can also be matched through their hobbies, since the tutoring can take place anywhere. O’Connor said she had one tutor who conducted lessons while fishing together with the student on the Mohawk River.

There is no set curriculum, and tutors develop their own resources. Literacy New York offers tutor support groups for sharing strategies, struggles, and successes.

Participating with Literacy New York is a learning experience for all parties, O’Connor said, concluding, “It’s really a two-way street.”

[Return to Home Page]