What is a Literacy Volunteer? A Guest Post by LaLa from 'LaLa in the Library

Sunday, July 24, 2016
Today, we have another Summer Blog Promo Tour! My guest today is LaLa from LaLa in the Library. Please welcome LaLa!

Wren took a peek at my blog bio and saw that I am a literacy volunteer and asked me to talk about it for SBPT, so here we go...

When I went for my second college degree I had decided to go at the last minute and all of the work study positions had been filled, so my advisor suggested that seeing I already had course work which qualified me to tutor in the learning center, I should apply there for on campus employment.
Because I was taking American Sign Language as an elective, one of the tutees they assigned to me was a deaf student. She told the learning center's administrator how patient I was being with her and they began to assign me all of the more challenging students I was qualified to tutor (you had to have had an A or B grade in the class the student needed help with, or an applicable class). When they saw how well I was getting on with my ESL students, they added Barry (not his real name) to my tutoring schedule.

Barry was an EOP student who was struggling in all of his classes because his reading had been tested at a fifth grade level. I was not assigned to teach him reading skills, he was getting help for that in the reading lab, but was to read the assigned text he had for homework in his Biology course with him, and help him answer any questions the assignment contained. When it became apparent that whatever they were doing in his reading lab sessions was not helping him raise his reading level, I started brainstorming.

I asked him what they were doing with him in reading lab and he said flashcards and reading for comprehension sheets that he had to read and answer questions about. He let me see one of the sheets and they were all boring paragraphs about people going in to apply for jobs, or taking clothes to the dry cleaners. I figured he wasn't gaining any reading skills because it was boring and a chore, so I set out to make reading more exciting for him. I used comic books and found easier reading children's chapter books that would be a little more interesting to a nineteen year old, like A Wrinkle In Time. I couldn't work with him during our regular tutoring sessions, so I started meeting him in one of the student lounges when we both had free time, instead of playing cards with my friends.

By the end of the semester Barry didn't need the reading lab's services any longer and when he came back for his second year of school, not only was he not a tutee, he was a tutor! I am sure the reading lab instructor thought she was the reason for Barry's success, but I knew Barry felt differently and that is all that mattered to me.

What did Barry go on to be? I don't know because I lost touch with him, but I know that he had decided he wanted to teach after experiencing being a tutor himself. And my experience in helping him discover a joy for reading made me want to be a literacy volunteer!

Over the years my literacy volunteerism has taken on many forms. In fact, my first official volunteering was a complete failure. At that time, after you had completed your training, you had to go to the person's home to tutor. I was at college all day so my assignments were at night and not in the best of neighborhoods. I also took public transportation and had to wait at the bus stops alone, so I quit. A while later it was suggested that I would be useful at the Urban League's teen weekend program and I tutored there until I graduated.

Post graduation my life was filled with day jobs and night music gigs, and then my son came along. After getting an instructional book from the library, and teaching him to read when he was two years old, my passion for teaching reading was reignited and I started teaching the kids I babysat to read, too. Ha ha! We had moved to the countryside when my son was three, but moved back into the city limits when he was eight and I found out that the literacy tutoring program was now library based. I would be giving my lessons at the library, so I signed up and retrained.
I did this for four years until my ex left and I had to get a full time job, but now that I am semi-retired, I volunteer for a program that matches up nonprofit daycares, after-school programs, and food banks with organizations that supply children's reading materials for free. When I am fully retired you will find me back at the library tutoring. I would also like to put together a free program for single mothers, relying on assistance programs, to help them teach their preschoolers to read.

To me reading is important because it is how we gain a lot of our knowledge; especially knowledge about places, people, and things we don't come in contact with in our day to day Iives. Knowledge and understanding of these things is what is going to catalyze world peace and bring an end to bigotry and racism. Consider this... if you help one person to read and in turn they help their children learn to love reading, or they decide to be an educator like Barry, you have made a solid contribution to a better world. Being a book blogger and making other people excited about reading is a wonderful contribution. Those of you who blog to promote a love of books, and a passion for reading among others should be truly proud of yourselves!

La La is a 59 year old book blogger who reads mostly YA, has a 24 year old son at university, is learning Japanese, makes a fab pumpkin pie, and likes a couple of martinis on Friday nights. You can find her pushing indie authors and talking books at La La in the Library and on Twitter @LaLaTOadstOne 

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