Literacy Program Seeks Helpers

Travis Brown
Staff Writer

BERLIN – The Worcester County Literacy Program is looking for tutors to help improve student’s English comprehension.

The county has had the Literacy Program around four years. It was a joint venture between Worcester County Volunteer Services and the Friends of the Ocean Pines Library. Judy Neustadt, a tutor with 14 years of experience, helped found the program.

“We currently have about eight active tutors,” said Neustadt, “and some that aren’t active.”

According to Neustadt, the majority of students involved in the program are foreign, with English being a second language for them. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t a significant number of local individuals that also need assistance, they’re often just embarrassed about it.

“Typically American born students are reluctant to admit that they have trouble reading,” she said. “That’s why we deal more with foreign students; they know they need help and are willing to ask for it.”

Neustadt said that the program has no set quota for tutors that must be filled, but any who wish to volunteer would be welcome. Training for the program consists of five sessions, the last of which is a follow up. The sessions are four and a half hours and take place on Saturday mornings. Those considering in the southern parts of the county are especially urged to attend the training sessions as there are currently less active tutors in the south than the north.

Volunteers will be trained on methods and basic situations. They will be taught ways to observe and help students. The program has no set curriculum, everything is what Neustadt called, “student based,” and tailored to fit individual needs.

The Worcester County Literacy Program has roots in much older, similar organizations. Neustadt worked with a New Jersey-based literacy group before helping to establish the program here.

When she came to the area, Neustadt noticed that the county was in need of an English tutoring group.

“There were already adult educational groups around,” she said. “But there was nothing here that did exactly what we do.”

Consequently, with the help of Worcester County Volunteer Services, especially Services Manager Cyndy Howell, and Friends of the Ocean Pines Library, the Literacy Program was founded four years ago.

The program depends completely on volunteers and do not charge students for the program. Volunteer Services provide some of the basics, while Friends of the Ocean Pines Library supply funding for much of whatever else the program requires.

“We’re not funded,” said Neustadt, “but we do receive some funding.”

The Literacy Program has a lot of work ahead of it. According to the Maryland Association for Adult Community and Continuing Education website, the state ranks 48th out of 50 for funding geared towards adult education. The site also states that twenty percent of Maryland residents, “function at the lowest literacy rate,” estimating that nearly 1,000,000 people statewide require, “basic skills instruction.”

Despite being ranked so low in funding, Maryland is the ninth highest in immigration, according to the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, making tutors who are able to teach English as a second language extremely important.

Those interested in volunteering are invited to an orientation Wednesday, Oct. 20, at the Ocean Pines Library from 6-7:30 p.m.

For additional information, call Howell at 410-632-5656 or Neustadt at 410-641-7715.