Volunteer Peter Schwarzhoff (left) helps Eric Zhao

Volunteers share the precious gift of literacy

Last year there were over 1700 volunteer hours put in by tutors in the adult literacy program

Literacy is one of the most important skills you have.

It’s the skill that allows you to bring in the majority of the information you receive – outside sensory cues – and it’s the skill that enables you to pass the information you have on to others.

Kat Eddy, Adult Literacy Outreach Coordinator for the Campbell River Literacy Association (CRLA), is hoping it’s also a skill you’d like to help strengthen in others. The CRLA’s adult literacy program is, according to Eddy, for people 19 and older to help them “achieve their own personal literacy goals, whether that be going back to school and upgrading, or maybe they just want more literacy skills to be able to read to their grandchildren, whatever their personal learning plan is, we’re here to support them in that.”

Last year there were over 1700 volunteer hours put in by tutors in the adult literacy program, according to Eddy, but this year, they’re struggling to find enough volunteers to keep up with their growing need.

“We’ve got 55 learners right now, and it’s only the end of October,” Eddy says. “Last year we had 55 adult learners for the entire year.”

The volunteer tutor training is four sessions of 2.5 hours each, where potential tutors discuss reading-skill-acquisition, roles and responsibilities of tutors, setting boundaries, understanding learning barriers of adult learners, and develop other skills to add to the tutor’s toolkit to help them succeed. It’s all volunteer, of course, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t benefits.

“It’s really cool to see somebody learn how to read, and to be a part of that. Like, what a really amazing and rewarding experience,” says Eddy.

There’s also the fulfillment of doing something good within your community, and engaging positively with others who share your passion for learning.

“We find that people who come back as adult learners typically have had negative experiences with the education system,” Eddy said, “and so there are some significant barriers for them to overcome. Just walking into an education building can be very overwhelming for them, so it’s really great to see the person who has gotten past whatever fears they have about education, and whatever shame they have around literacy, and they walk through our doors and they say, ‘help me,’ and it happens really quickly once they’ve engaged, it’s just a matter of them getting to the point where they can get here.”

Aside from going through the tutor training, the only requirements to be a literacy volunteer tutor are a clean criminal record check, the ability to provide two personal references, and being able to provide a minimum two hour per week commitment to a student.

“The ideal volunteer is somebody who is patient, because patience is a big thing in this process,” Eddy says. “They are someone who has a genuine love of and passion for learning. You don’t have to be a retired teacher, you just have to be someone who can be patient and work through a curriculum with someone.

“It’s a passion for learning, and the patience and desire to see someone self-better. That’s all it takes.”

Anyone interested in learning more about what the CRLA does, or would like to become trained to help out, can contact them at 250-923-1275, go to www.literacyforall.ca or email info@literacyforall.ca