This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

August 26, 2010 - volunteer to teach

The fundamental mission of the Douglas County Libraries is to promote literacy and lifelong learning.

What results from such advocacy? Here's one of them: productive citizens.

Recently, I asked Kate Prestwood, who heads up Douglas County Libraries adult literacy efforts, to give me an update on the status of the program.

She responded with some wonderful stories both from tutors (volunteers we train to be teachers) and students. Some of our tutors are paired with students working on basic English or GEDs (a high school equivalency certificate). But we have a surprising number of international students.

One of them, of Asian origin, came to us because she was working at a big box retail store, and suspected that her use of English was a little odd. Thanks to volunteer help, she's passed a test to start moving up the retail chain's corporate ladder. These days, she addresses customers "politely." (Learning to speak English from watching television might well build up a repertoire of impolite expressions.)

A Russian aerobics instructor (who is also working another full time job) noted her increasing fluency in English. To thank her tutor, she made a custom CD of her favorite Russian music.

Another student, from eastern Europe, is working with her tutor to launch a new business. It's going well. And because of the student's growing confidence, she says, she now is starting to slip out from under the thumb of an overbearing mother-in-law.

Another woman, from South Korea, writes proudly (and grammatically!) about how she has put both of her daughters through American colleges, and finally has time to invest in her own education.

The consistent story of our students is this: through often extraordinary and inspiring work, they better themselves, they contribute to our society, they give their children a better life. And often, they invite their tutors to stand beside them on the proud day when they become American citizens.

Right now, we have 101 people matched with a tutor. Some tutors have more than one student. Others are still waiting to be paired up, although we have 80 students waiting for tutors, too. The disconnect here is mainly one of schedules. Many of the folks looking for tutors have work, school, or kids, and may be available, for instance, only on Tuesdays at 3:45 p.m.

Bottom line: we need more volunteers.

We also need volunteers interested in facilitating our Practice Your English groups at Highlands Ranch and Castle Rock. Parker has a great group of volunteers, and the Saturdays are always covered. But at Highlands Ranch and Castle Rock, we have a shortage. This is a group setting, not the usual one-on-one. But some people actually prefer this setting.

It is a privilege to live in this country. If you'd like not only to enrich your own life, but make a profound difference in the life of someone else, please consider volunteering your time in the service of literacy.

You can reach Kate Prestwood at 303-791-7323. Call today.

LaRue's Views are his own.

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