For 16 years, a group of people who love books has volunteered with the Anne Arundel County Literacy Council to pass on the gift of reading to illiterate adults.
With the influx into the county of immigrants, especially from Latin America and Korea, an increasing number of people who speak English as their second language are coming to the Literacy Council for help.
To meet that demand, the council is offering a series of workshops for anyone who would like to teach someone who is a non-native speaker of English to read.
Five three-hour workshops are needed for certification. They will be held from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. starting this Thursday, and continuing on Tuesdays and Thursdays for two weeks in Room B2 at Severna Park High School, Benfield and Robinson Roads in Severna Park.
The students who come to the council to learn to read are a diverse group, said Nancy Mocarsky, the program director.
"We have truck drivers, grandmothers, people out of work who don't have the necessary skills to find another job," Ms. Mocarsky said. "Most of our students read on an elementary level."
And most have a story to tell about why they never learned to read and how they managed to cope in a reading world. One woman said she quit school in 12th grade because "she would not accept her diploma because she could not read it," Ms. Mocarsky said.
One of her students was a tow truck driver who became hopelessly lost when he had to drive from Annapolis to Baltimore to find a broken down car. "He couldn't read the signs," she explained.
During the workshops, the volunteer tutors will be taught how to teach. And they also will learn a little bit of how it feels to be illiterate.
In one exercise, the prospective tutors read a story in a language that is a mixture of Russian and English using the Russian alphabet. "It develops empathy for the students and what they're going through, so they can feel what it's like to be illiterate," she explained.
Tutors are asked to make at least a six-month commitment, during which they will meet one-to-one with a student twice a week, for about an hour each time. The classes are held "in peoples' homes, libraries, churches, fast-food restaurants in the off hours," Ms. Mocarsky said.
Anyone interested in volunteering should call the Literacy Council at 553-0809 by tomorrow. Those who wish to register for a reading class may call the same number.