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Democrat Photo by John Emerson

IN NEED OF HELP: Literacy Volunteers of Americaâs Connie Keller, standing, pitches the LVA ãbranch-outä plan to area librarians in Monticello Monday.

LVA Wants Libraries
To Be 'Branches'

By John Emerson
MONTICELLO ÷ September 1, 2000 ö ãJohnny canât read.ä
The phrase conjures up thoughts of incompetent teachers and schools and wasted tax dollars. But Johnnyâs inability to read is probably not the fault of the school or the teacher.
Johnny canât read because his family canât read.
That is the problem confronting the 35 volunteer tutors in the Literacy Volunteers of America in Sullivan County. There are hundreds of moms and dads in the county who canât read. There are thousands of adults who have inadequate literacy skills and not enough tutors to go around.
Monday night, Connie Keller, president and one of the founders of the LVA chapter in Sullivan County, issued a plea to libraries throughout Sullivan County. The request was for the libraries to become involved with the organization, with the goal to turn each local library into an oasis of learning within the community.
ãWe need to have little branches [of LVA] in each library,ä she told the dozen or so representatives from the countyâs various libraries. ãWe need the communities to supply these services. Weâll be right behind you every step of the way, but we need to have you involved.ä
ãYou just cannot separate literacy from libraries,ä said Alan Barrish, director of Monticelloâs Ethelbert B. Crawford Library. ãThey are together and cannot be separated.ä
Eve Dexheimer, program coordinator for the LVA of Sullivan County, said the problem in Sullivan County with non-literate adults is particularly acute.
ãTwenty-one percent of adults in Sullivan County are non-literate, and that number is growing,ä she said. ãThatâs one person in five who canât read. Itâs a serious problem.ä
Currently, people seeking help with their reading and writing skills enter the program by calling the LVA office in Monticello and coming in for an evaluation. During the evaluation, their reading and writing abilities are tested, and they map out their goals and objectives to Dexheimer.
The appeal made by Keller, Dexheimer and Barrish was to develop intake offices at all of the countyâs libraries. They were also looking for the libraries to help recruit volunteer tutors and make it known that the program is available.
ãWhen we started, we thought that people would want to have their instruction away from their home town,ä Keller said. ãWe were wrong.ä
Once the assessment is completed, student and tutor are matched. The commitment for both the student and the tutor is for a year. Sometimes the commitment is maintained for much longer periods.
ãWe donât cut it off after a year,ä said Keller in response to a question from one of the library representatives. ãThe people involved have to agree to make a commitment for at least a year.ä
At this point, tutor training classes are held twice a year, in the fall and the spring. The next tutor training session is scheduled for three Saturdays in October, beginning on October 14. Five of the people who attended the meeting said they were interested in becoming volunteer tutors. All of the library representatives said they would discuss it with their staffs and boards of directors.
Anyone interested in enrolling in the program as either a student or a volunteer tutor can call Dexheimer at 794-0017 or visit the office at 33 Lakewood Avenue in Monticello (back of the United Way building).

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