Tutors Ease Transition To English

Posted: March 13, 2001

KENNETT SQUARE — With 300 students enrolled and 56 on the waiting list, the Adult Literacy Program at the Bayard Taylor Memorial Library is a success.

But, organizers have found, success brings added challenges.

"We would love to have 56 tutors," program coordinator Sue Calio said. "I would say [that] at any given time we're looking for 50 tutors - that would be our dream - but the waiting list would continue to grow. We have an ongoing need."

Calio said that the program, which helps Spanish-speaking residents learn to read and write English, has become much more popular in recent years and that requests to enter it are not slowing down.

Organizers first believed they could ease some of the demand by offering classes and relying less on one-on-one tutoring. But that did not work out as planned.

"If anything, it has increased [demand] because now we are better known in the community," Calio said.

Most of the students need one-on-one tutoring, Calio said. She said potential tutors can simply let library officials know when they are available and the library will find a student who is available at that time.

Optional training workshops, designed to help volunteers learn how to tutor, will be held in May.

But, tutors said, it is not necessary to take the workshops to be a tutor. All someone really needs, they say, is a strong desire to contribute to the community.

"We're very flexible about how people can attend," Calio said. "Training is optional. We're trying to make everything as easy as possible for interested tutors."

Diane Davenport, 29, a Kennett Square resident who has been tutoring at the library for about a year, said she finds the program rewarding. She has been helping an agricultural worker, Miguel Lopez, with his English so he can become a U.S. citizen.

But, she said, tutors must be prepared to take the initiative, because students are often apprehensive and shy.

"I think we were both very nervous," Davenport said of her first meeting with Lopez. Because "at that point, I did not know how much English he knew and he didn't know how much Spanish I knew."

Davenport said she knows some Spanish, but mostly uses English when tutoring Lopez. She said most of the work involves pronunciation and writing.

"After a couple of weeks, it was very clear what his goals were," she said. "After that, it gets so much easier."

For More Information

To volunteer for the Adult Literacy Program at Bayard Taylor Memorial Library in Kennett Square, call Sue Calio or Alice Peters at 610-444-9118.

Kelly Wolfe's e-mail address is kwolfe@phillynews.com.

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