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VOL. 127 | NO. 157 | Monday, August 13, 2012

Literacy Mid-South Seeks New Volunteers

By Aisling Maki

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Literacy Mid-South is in dire need of volunteers to accommodate the influx of adult students who’ve responded to the organization’s outreach efforts.

The mission of the nonprofit, based at 902 S. Cooper St., is to maximize the impact of child and adult literacy and learning through advocacy, research, family literacy workshops and resource development.

Literacy Mid-South executive director Kevin Dean and his staff have been busy spreading the word about the identity and mission of the nonprofit, the result of a 2010 merger between Memphis Literacy Council and Mid-South Reads.

The pronounced effort to reintroduce the organization to the community and reach residents in need of Literacy Mid-South’s services has resulted in increased enrollment.

“We’ve gotten about 125 new students from all this outreach that we’ve done,” said Stacy Early, Literacy Mid-South student liaison. “We’re also trying to be really progressive in having these small groups and one-on-one tutors rather than large classes because adults do learn different than kids do. So both of those things put together have created a huge need for additional tutors.”

Without additional volunteers, the nonprofit may be forced to put a freeze on enrollment.

“We’re now doing continuous enrollment,” Early said. “We used to follow Memphis City Schools calendar, and that way if people came a month or two after enrollment they would have to wait an entire semester. We don’t do that anymore because a lot of times it’s hard for adults just to come here and ask for help, so we don’t want to make anybody wait.”

It’s estimated that about 20 percent of adults in the Memphis metropolitan area are functionally illiterate, which affects every aspect of their lives – from finding sustainable employment to taking charge of their health and the health of their families to having the capacity to assert their legal rights.

Literacy Mid-South currently needs volunteers to fill a number of roles, including intake and assessment volunteers, English as a Second Language (ESL) tutors, math tutors, and of course reading tutors.

Intake and assessment volunteers are needed on Mondays from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. or from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. to accept new students into the program. Volunteers are trained to assess for phonemic awareness and to provide oral tests to new students.

ESL tutors are needed weekday mornings to help small groups of students improve their English language skills.

“ESL tutors are always hard to find,” Early said. “And people who can help in the mornings are hard to find, too, because most people work. We don’t have as many morning volunteers.”

Math tutors are also needed weekday mornings to help teach math skills to small groups of adult students.

Reading tutors are needed Monday and Tuesday mornings to help students in small group settings improve their reading skills using practical, real-life methods.

Visit www.literacymidsouth.org to learn more.

The Daily News Publishing Co. Inc. is a supporter of Literacy Mid-South.

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