Why, you ask, should you volunteer for Literacy Plus Hayward?
Well, are you someone who is at least 18 years old? Can you read at the 12th grade level? Are you someone who can write, spell, and speak English correctly and clearly? Will you be able to participate fully in a tutor training class? Most of all, are you of the persuasion that literacy is such a precious resource that no one should ever go through life without it? If that is what you do believe, then would you be willing to teach somebody on a one-on-one basis so that this person learns to read and write in English?
Guess what – you are in the right frame of mind, place, and time! Literacy Plus Hayward wants you to make a difference by becoming a volunteer tutor. Next month, on May 6 (Tue.), 6-8 pm and May 12 (Mon.), 6-8 pm, there will be a New Tutor Orientation. Subsequently, the Training Dates are either May 16 (Fri.) or May 17 (Sat.). If this is starting to feel like a volunteer opportunity that is right up your alley, you can always get more information and an application by calling the Literacy Plus Office at (510) 881-7910.
However, if you’re the type that needs more convincing, let me take our discussion a little further. Here’s what you will find if you visit Literacy Plus Hayward’s Facebook page: “Forty million adults in America have trouble reading but with help, they can learn. Volunteer tutors from the Hayward Public Library’s Literacy Plus program are proving that every day. Since 1986, Literacy Plus has helped over 3,000 adults improve their reading, writing, and conversation skills. As a result, they became citizens, earned driver’s licenses and G.E.D. degrees and voted for the first time. Their increased skills resulted in higher self-esteem, better jobs, and the ability to help their children succeed.
Therefore, if you have a few free hours a week and want to help, please consider becoming a volunteer tutor. It can change someone’s life – and your life, too! Tutoring sessions are once or twice a week and can take place during the day, evening or weekend, depending on your availability. The next free tutor training is listed above, as you have seen, or you can see the Literacy Plus calendar lists for future tutor training classes.”
Now if you’re the type who becomes convinced once you’ve actually heard from someone who has been right there in the trenches, so to speak, then let me tell you about my own experiences as a Literacy Plus volunteer tutor. First of all, do you know of someone who has trouble reading to a child? Do you know someone who struggles with reading the daily newspaper? Do you know someone who needs help with writing checks, reading medical prescriptions, or filling out job applications?
If the person you’re asking is me, my answer is a resounding: NO. I do not know anyone in my immediate circle that has a problem with reading, writing, and speaking in English. I won’t deny it: I come from a family of teachers in the Philippines, definitely a learned lot. Even when we were still living over there, our parents worked their a**es off such that even if we kids were enrolled in mere public schools which were tuition-free, then at least we had simple nutritious “baon” (packed lunch) and money for transportation by bus and jeepney. Education was very important for my family then, and it remains as important if not more important now with the advent of information technology to the point of overload. I simply cannot conceive of the idea of not being able to read or write at all because those were so basic to me like the very air I breathed when I was still a budding reader-writer in my youth. How could this random teenager not know how to read the alphabet – I mean, just the alphabet, letter per letter, not even stringing them to form words yet? How could someone just ask me for the inkpad so she could make a thumb print on a signature line in a legal document because she doesn’t know how to sign her own name?
Being illiterate is serious business. Repeated typographical errors may be regular fodder for highbrow jokes, but for us in real life, I’m sure we would all prefer to be free from the tyranny of this enemy of knowledge and enlightenment. So I decided to do something about it. In April 2008, I attended a Literacy Plus tutor orientation and then the training session. I remember that it was Ms. Cynthia Breeden-Johnson herself, who’s situated pretty high up there as the Literacy Plus Program Coordinator, who conducted our training, and you can be assured that we were in good, competent, and caring hands indeed. Of course, our favorite Tutor-Learner Coordinator, Tara Maiden-Baillie, was part of our training, too. I also remember that they invited a couple of learners to speak to us: one was an African-American woman, while the other one was Latina. Both of them shared their difficult life stories and how a dedicated Literacy Plus tutor (or maybe even series of tutors) helped them overcome and succeed in life.
Not a month has passed after my initial training when I was already matched with my first learner, “Emmy.” Emmy is Euro-American, differently abled, and she also attends the day program at Hedco House. Her husband, also differently abled, is a resident there. I first learned patience with Emmy, since I have had to repeat the same concept over and over (and over and…) until I get a glimmer of comprehension in her eyes. I think the extent of our progress before we got unmatched was that she was able to memorize the “multiplication table of 9” or as the grade school kids say now, the “times table.” Next, I was matched with “Marta,” a Latina who would like to study for her G.E.D., pass the written driver’s license exam, and read her Blue Book (a.k.a. the “bible” of the Alcoholics Anonymous). At first, Marta was enthusiastic about our sessions, but with one problem or another, she became listless and preoccupied. Not to mention that while she and I were having our twice-a-week one-hour sessions, she had attempted to take the written DMV exam three times and failed on all three attempts. It was disheartening for me, it was devastating to her. Until one day she just didn’t show up anymore and we had to be unmatched.
Since November 2009, I’ve been matched with a shy Korean-American young man in his early 30s with cerebral palsy, “Park,” always going to our weekly sessions at the Hayward Public Library with his very supportive mother, “Jang.” Then in December 2010, Tara asked me if I could find time for another learner and I said sure, so I was matched with “Harry,” an African-American man in his 50s with polio. These are the two men in my life that truly inspire me since I’ve first met them, and they continue to do so now. Every week when I meet with them on Fridays, first Park from 10 am to 12 noon, then Harry from 12 noon to 2 pm, they remind me to stay grounded, to keep it real, to always be patient, and never, never ever to condescend. Just tell yourself that within your learners, the potential is already there – you’re just there to tease it out. How you do it is your own style based on what you will learn during tutor training, but you and I are at best just stewards of this gift of literacy, handed down from one grateful student to the next. Hey, a teacher or several of them cared enough for you to help you read or write when you were young – can you do any less for these adults still on the waiting list, waiting to be matched?
Be a trained tutor with Literacy Plus Hayward! The number to call is (510) 881-7910.