I don’t remember learning how to read. My parents read to me from the time I was born, and somehow it just became a part of me. Words, word games, books are as important to me as breathing.
As Joe and I had our children, we too read to them from the time they were born, and they absorbed it as well.
I loved my time working as receptionist at the Brunner Literacy Center, for every day I could watch others share the joy of words and reading. It is amazing to see people who might have been looked down on in school, realize that they can learn, and see faces light up with smiles as they actually begin to read.
The love and patience of the tutors leads person after person to achieve the goals that brought the students to the Literacy Center. Learning to read, improving reading levels, getting a GED, learning to speak English, learning the vocabulary and math skills needed to get into nursing or other programs – you never know what needs the next person to come through the door will have. But we do know that whatever the need, just the right tutor will show up to volunteer their time and meet that need.
While the tutors are volunteers, books and other supplies need to be paid for, and this is one way that those of us who aren’t able to tutor can help. Many generous donors have greatly helped the Literacy Center since it opened. Joe and I are both retired now and on a fixed income, but when we heard about the Literacy Leaders program, we were glad to join in. We can’t give a lot, but having it set up as an automatic payment each month means we don’t have to think about it, and each month we are doing something so more faces can smile.
Whether you can afford to give a little or a lot each month, please consider joining us as Literacy Leaders, and helping us spread the smiles!
Recently I have begun to serve as a tutor and volunteer at the Brunner Literacy Center. Over the past three months, I have had the opportunity to speak with several students who have children in school – preschool through high school. In the course of these conversations, one of the things I have stressed is the value of parents maintaining communication with their child’s teacher. Several opportunities are provided for parents:
Parent-Teacher Conferences: Schools generally provide conference times during or at the end of the first grading period. Many will also provide a conference time in the spring. Of course, parents always have the right to request a conference with a teacher to discuss concerns or to ask questions. As a teacher for ten years and administrator for thirty-three years, I always believed that open communication between home and school is one of the best ways to insure that children are receiving an optimal educational experience.
Schools are required to provide information to both custodial and non-custodial parents. The only exception is if there is a court order prohibiting the non-custodial parent from having any contact with the school.
Individualized Education Plan (IEP): Some children receive instruction, often individual, outside the regular classroom setting. Generally an IEP is developed for the child which outlines the goals in a particular subject area, for example reading or mathematics, for the academic year. Federal, state, and/or local school laws and best practice require that parents (custodial and non-custodial) be invited to a conference to discuss the plan at both the beginning and end of the academic year. Attendance at both conferences provides valuable information for the parent(s) and lets the child know that his/her parents are interested not only in the child’s progress but also want to know how they can reinforce the school experience at home.
Why be involved in your child’s education?
Two students at the Center commented that they want their children to do well in school so that as adults they won’t be faced with challenges resulting from their inability to read or to perform basic math computations. I encouraged them to play an active role in their child’s education.
I often used the analogy that removing a small stone from one’s shoe as soon as the wearer notices it prevents blisters and an aching foot. If the stone is left in place, the pain becomes much greater. So, too, what seems like a small concern on the part of a parent, if left unattended, can result in a much bigger issue. Parents and teachers all want what is best for the children.
Truly maintaining a strong parent- school connection greatly enhances a child’s academic success. By working together, amazing things can be accomplished!
Coaching people is what I really enjoy, and at the Brunner Literacy Center it has been my delight to find a wonderful group of people who are willing to try new things and take some calculated risks. Being small and appreciating each other on a personal level has certainly helped as well as our recognition of the unique gifts of everyone involved.
At our first retreat together last July, I asked each of our staff to take the StrengthsFinder assessment which helped them to identify their “strengths,” those areas in which they have the most natural abilities. StrengthsFinder is an outgrowth of the positive psychology movement which is not focused on dysfunction, but rather on what people do well and how they can continue to improve in what gives them life and makes them whole. We learned some interesting things about each other, lessons that we have been fortunate to bring back to the Center as we support each other, not only in the work at hand but also in the equally important work of becoming all we can be as professionals and as people.
Before I came to the Brunner Literacy Center as my “encore” career, I was working at the University of Dayton, managing the training and development of staff, and focusing on leadership development across the campus. The only thing that was missing for me was interaction with students. I encountered them on a daily basis, but my interactions with them were sporadic and arbitrary. Nonetheless, my professional encounters with those working with students helped to satisfy my need to help others to discover and maximize their talents.
At Brunner, I have a similar situation. We are all here to help the students to succeed, but my position does not have a student-specific function. I see them all the time, but my responsibilities preclude a lot of interaction with them. I am more focused on our staff and on interactions with folks externally.
While some may see this as a negative, in my experience my investment in those who either work directly with students or perform functions that support our operation is very rewarding in its own right. There is something exhilarating for me about seeing someone mold their raw talent into a new area of expertise, or incorporate a new skill into their repertoire of competencies.
We have been fortunate to expand our staff since I have joined the BLC, mostly because we have expanded from one site to four in the 18 months I have been here. In addition, functions that were handled by outside vendors have now been brought in-house, and we have become more self-reliant and confident as we move the BLC forward.
I am so proud of the staff at the BLC – their talents, their commitment, their willingness to grow and stretch. And I am so glad that my job responsibilities allow me to steward their development and create an environment in which we and the students all continue to learn together. It is simply the best.
One reason I have enjoyed my job as receptionist at the Brunner Literacy Center is getting to know the many tutors and others who volunteer their time to help people’s lives change by helping them become more literate.
When I was a child, I remember my parents being involved helping at school, at church, and in the community. I grew up knowing that helping others is just what people should do. My husband Joe and I have been involved in a number of ministries and activities at school, at church, and in the community. We tried to show our children that life is about more than just “my needs, my wants.” Going out of ourselves, being there for others, helps to make us better people and the world a better place.
It would be wonderful if more parents could include their children in discussing donations to charities. Parents play a big role in helping their children to be involved in gathering money or supplies, and helping their children to gain a sense of awareness of the needs around them. Then the children can begin to understand how they might help to meet those needs.
Each year for Christmas my friend Sharon Samson and her family choose an organization to help, and they get the whole family involved.
This year they talked about the Brunner Literacy Center, and the children were amazed to learn that there are adults who don’t know how to read. It made the children even more eager to pick out things to donate to help the BLC with our mission of promoting literacy.
These children are blessed to be part of a family that values books and reading. Sharon was a school librarian for several years. The children have been read to since they were born, and I think they now appreciate that even more!
Sharon, her son Jordan, and two of her grandchildren delivered a variety of supplies, including candy, coffee, water, school and office supplies, cleaning supplies, and more. We often get donations at the BLC from groups of adults, and we certainly appreciate them all. What touched me particularly about this family’s donation (besides the fact that they are close friends of mine!) is what a learning experience it was for the children.
By helping a different nonprofit each year, these children’s eyes and hearts are being opened to needs around them, and seeing what a difference their efforts can make. This gives me hope that they will become adults who reach out, who care about others, who help to make the world a better place. One person, one family can make a difference!
Many thanks to the Samson family for selecting the Brunner Literacy Center as their Christmas project this year!