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Reading tutors give, receive a gift

September 27, 1999

Reading tutorsStory and photo by DON AINES / Staff Writer, Chambersburg




CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - She speaks English better than most Americans speak Spanish, but Ana Reyes had some difficulty last Wednesday trying to express why it is harder to learn a language as an adult.

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"Your head is full," Reyes said as she sat with her English as a Second Language tutor, June Cross, in a room at the borough's First United Methodist Church. Unlike a child, she explained, an adult has to worry about family and work in addition to trying to learn a new language.

Reyes, who has lived in Chambersburg for eight years, attended university for two years in Mexico and was a teacher in her native country. Now she's the student, with several reasons for wanting to become more proficient in English.

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"My daughter ... has a lot of friends and she wanted me to be able to speak with her friends," Reyes said. She works at a local restaurant and said better English could also mean a better job.

"When I first lived here, there were very few people who spoke Spanish," Reyes said. While the Hispanic population in Chambersburg has grown, "I need to communicate with other people," she said.

After four months in English classes at the Franklin County Literacy Council and another year of one-on-one tutoring with Cross, Reyes said she is more comfortable, especially "when someone talks to me on the phone."

"I'd say she's an 'A' student. I've noted a lot of progress," said Cross, who has been tutoring since October.

At 7 p.m. Thursday, the Literacy Council will hold an orientation meeting for prospective tutors at its offices at 338 Lincoln Way East, according to Director Stephanie Crawford. That will be followed by six three-hour training classes in October.

Volunteers need to have at least a high school diploma or GED and should be at least 18 years of age, Crawford said Thursday. "They need to have patience," she added.

"We also want them to make a commitment of one year," said Crawford. That involves one or two nights a week of tutoring and preparation time for a total of about three or four hours a week.

The Literacy Council has 66 tutors, but 72 people in one-on-one tutoring, so some work with more than one student. There are another 20 people on the waiting list, according to Crawford.

The council could use another 40 tutors to meet the demand to work with students of varying abilities, she said.

"We work with adults that have low level reading skills to those that are on a higher level, such as those preparing for the GED courses," Crawford said. "Many of our English as a Second Language students do not know any English at all."

"I can read a lot and I can understand so-so, but I can't speak" much English, said Ana Hernandez of Chambersburg. The Costa Rican has lived in Chambersburg three months but lived in other parts of the United States for several years.

Hernandez works at a local factory, but many of her co-workers are Hispanic, so she doesn't have much opportunity during the day to practice English. Last Tuesday she and Cross worked with an English computer program at the council offices.

Cross had been working in Hagerstown a year ago when she contacted the Literacy Council. "Initially I had thought I might go back to school and go into teaching. ... I thought it would give me a feel for teaching," she said about being a tutor.

It so happened that the day she called last year was the day of another orientation meeting.

"It's very rewarding to know that you're helping someone and to see them progress," Cross said. "They're able to do more and feel more a part of the community," she said.

There are various courses offered by the council at its offices, the First United Methodist Church and at Chambersburg Area Senior High School, Crawford said. There are four tutor training sessions a year, with the next after October beginning in January.

For more information about programs or to volunteer, call the Literacy Council at 717-267-2212.

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