Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Each one, teach one

(A note to beryl and anyone else reading)

If you find Erika's story inspring, please do more than hope for her future. You can help in many ways, big and small. I don't know what happened to Erika, but there are many, many more like her. Immigrants, coming by choice or by necessity, regularly find their English insufficient for daily life. Some grew up here in the U.S., but didn't learn to read as children for whatever reason. Perhaps they moved around a lot as a child, or had to work. Perhaps a learning disorder went unnoticed or unaddressed. Some simply slipped through the cracks. Whatever the circumstances, reading is fundamental. Can you imagine remembering an appointment for six months because you couldn't write it down? I know a woman who has done just that.

Here are some ways you can put that inspiration to work.

  • Nourish and indulge your own love of reading and writing.
  • Become a regular, conscientious patron of your local library.
  • Volunteer your time or donate money to your local library, according to what you can offer.
  • Donate books you have finished to your library (ask first if they want them) or to the world.
  • Encourage elected officials to support education, libraries, and literacy in your area.
  • Help build free and open references that anyone may use.
  • Find out if there is a literacy tutoring program in your area and volunteer as a tutor. If your library does not offer one, check with this organization, or help people online.

I personally volunteer as a tutor. My learner tells of holding out money and letting the clerk take the right amount to buy groceries, because she didn't understand when she arrived. Despite such initial terrors, she earned her GED and her citizenship. She attended junior college, and she'll start at a university later this year. I spend two hours per week (often wandering joyously into three) guiding, encouraging, and explaining, and she does the rest. In exchange for a bit of my time, I learn about her life, find inspiration in her courage and celebrate her accomplishments.

You, too, have the power to help change a life.


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