Program aims to improve literacy

By Dan Jacobson

Volunteer positions to help improve the level of literacy in the community are available through the “Kishwaukee College Literacy Program.”

The literacy program’s purpose is to meet the language needs of adults and non-English speaking people in the community. Julie Lamb, Kishwaukee College Literacy Program coordinator, said the program always is looking for volunteers to help teach the classes or tutor individuals.

“We work with adults that are age 16 and older that are not currently enrolled in a public school and who read below the 9th grade level,” Lamb said. “Our volunteers must take 12 to 15 hours of training before they can participate.”

Lamb said there are usually 80 volunteers a year and 200 students. The majority of the students come from the DeKalb area.

More than 50 percent of the students come from DeKalb with Rochelle, Sycamore and Malta covering the rest of the area served by the program.

“It is estimated that one in five people in our country have reading skills below what’s needed for daily living skills,” she said. “We really like to help our students move on to a college or university.”

Secretary of State George Ryan stated in a press release, “The first results from a recent literacy survey are showing that nearly four million adults can benefit from one of these basic skills programs. Improving the level of literacy in our state is one of the most important things we can do to prepare Illinois for the 21st century.”

“When we help people cope better with the world around them, we prepare them for better jobs, we give them self-respect and we give them a chance to make a better life for their children,” Ryan stated.

Volunteer instructors also may be asked to go one on one with an individual who is not comfortable in a classroom atmosphere. “If someone is more uncomfortable in a class, we ask them if they would rather have a tutor,” she said.

Past volunteers have found the program helpful in making career moves. “We have had a number of NIU students who have served as tutors and classroom instructors who have changed their plans on what they want to do with their future after being involved in the program,” Lamb said.

The Kishwaukee College Literacy Program is in its eighth year of receiving funds from grants provided by the state. This year, the program is getting $36,586 of $200,000 provided by the state for community literacy programs.

Other cities getting money from this grant are Dixon, Freeport and Rockford. An additional $20,000 from the Illinois State Board of Education also will go toward the Kishwaukee College program.

To enroll in classes or volunteer as tutors call Kishwaukee College at 825-2086, ext. 337.