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Literacy fair stresses help is available to teach reading

June 10, 2000|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

More than 16,000 Washington County residents read at a fourth-grade level or below, and members of a dozen local literacy and educational groups say they have resources to help them.

The groups participated in a literacy fair Saturday at the Washington County Free Library. Nearly 300 people attended the fair, which ran from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., said Kathleen O'Connell, assistant director for the library.

"We're holding the fair to promote literacy in Washington County and to show people out there who need it how many resources are available to help them," O'Connell said.

Ginny Yildirim, a teacher for Washington County Adult Education, said she taught a class of 12 students recently and all 12 spoke a different language.

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"I used a lot of pictures and a lot of body language," she said.

O'Connell said people, who read at what literacy experts call Level One, can't fill out a Social Security card application, find an intersection on a road map or count a simple column of figures.

Some never learned to read properly and were passed along from grade to grade anyway. Often people like this get by faking their way through and are too embarrassed to seek help.

"There are millionaires out there who can't read properly," O'Connell said.

Before the technology revolution, a person who could read above a fourth-grade level was considered literate, she said.

"Because of technology, we need a higher level today," she said.

Agencies are there to help people obtain high school equivalency diplomas, Yildrim said. Some literacy programs have as many as 500 students, said Robbie Matonak, an adult education teacher with the Washington County Family Center.

Tamra Bricker, a Smithsburg mother of six who home schools her children, brought them to the library Saturday.

"We saw the balloons in the parking lot and came in. I've never been to this library before," she said as she busily filled out name cards for her children for the door prize.

Her children range in age from 3 to 12. Her 5-year-old son gets a nickel for every new word he learns.

"So far, he's made $2 today," Bricker said.

"If a person can read, they can teach themselves to do anything," she said.

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