Sullivan County Democrat
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School Brings
Literacy to All

By Jeanne Sager
FALLSBURG — October 1, 2004 – Imagine sending an assignment home with a child knowing their mom and dad can’t read even the first line of the worksheet.
It’s an all-too-common problem for teachers struggling to incorporate parents into their students’ lives.
And it’s one the Fallsburg school district is out to change.
The district has teamed up with Literacy Volunteers of America’s (LVA) Sullivan County chapter to open a world of books to moms and dads from Hurleyville to Woodbourne.
The aim is to match literacy tutors with parents in the district who struggle to help their 3rd grader decipher words in a workbook and parents who are new to this country, still trying to get a handle on an entirely new language.
According to special education teacher Lee Smassanow, statistics show that nearly 20 percent of the population is illiterate – applied to the Fallsburg community, that could mean that up to one-fifth of the residents aren’t able to read a newspaper.
For Superintendent Walter Milton Jr., the administrator who took the helm of the district just last year, that’s one-fifth too many.
“When we have a literate community, I think there’s a correlation with having highly capable, literate children,” he said.
In order to make his district work for the students, Milton’s found he needs to work for the parents.
“We’re doing all kind of things so our children will be prepared for the global process,” Milton noted.
And literacy is key to being able to participate in what he calls “the democratic process in this great nation of ours.”
“Our parents are our students’ first teacher,” he explained. “It’s incumbent for us to have families serve as that – the more you know, the better off you are in our society.”
Smassanow has been working with Literacy Volunteers for almost 30 years, and, working with Milton, he has been key in bringing the group into Fallsburg.
Headquartered in Monticello, LVA trains area residents to act as teachers to the illiterate or just functionally literate living all over the county.
This will be a chance to put more of an emphasis on one particular section of the county.
The district hopes to bring at least 20 residents into the school for training sessions (beginning October 9), classes where they will learn the tools necessary to act as tutors. They’ll be given books to work from and tips on helping others learn.
Then they’ll be matched with “students” who need their help – folks from the Fallsburg district.
The tutor sessions will be held at the Benjamin Cosor Elementary School where tutors will have access to the computer labs so they can also teach some basic computer skills that the parents can then pass along to their children.
“The hope is that these parents will be able to access better jobs and increase their quality of life in addition to being able to help their children,” Smassanow said.
Anyone who would like to volunteer as a tutor, or anyone who would like to sign up as a student, should call the Literacy Volunteers office at 794-0017.
In addition to the training sessions, which will be held on Saturdays in October, tutors will be donating about one hour of time each week to work with a student. But Smassanow said it’s truly worth it.
“We’re really here to give people the gift of literacy,” he said.

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