Creager lobbies reader leaders

July 31, 2000

Creager lobbies reader leaders

Barbara CreagerBy ANDREA BROWN-HURLEY / Staff Writer

photo: KEVIN G. GILBET / staff photographer

Barbara Creager relishes reading, but she's poised to close the book on one chapter of her life.

"I read everything," said Creager, 61. "I can't believe how awful it must be not to be able to read something."

Her passion for reading prompted Creager in 1996 to attend a Frederick County Literacy Council training workshop to become a reading tutor. The Frederick County organization linked her with a student in Washington County.

As more tutors became available, the Frederick County organization decided to open a branch in Washington County. Creager, of Hagerstown, was asked to serve as its head, she said.


She has spread her love of the written word to other adults through her role as coordinator of the Literacy Council of Washington County.

She has been the Council's coordinator since it was re-launched here three years ago.

"She's really pulled the thing together," said Naomi Butler, who helps with Literacy Council programs through her job as training/advocacy coordinator for Western Maryland Public Libraries.

The original Washington County Literacy Council dissolved in 1994 due to lack of volunteers. The current organization is on the brink of a similar demise, Creager said.

"We have become victims of our own success," she wrote in a recent group newsletter. "The future of the Literacy Council is at a crucial turning point."

A stunning 17 percent of adults in Washington County are functionally illiterate, according to information from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

It's tough for these people to seek help, but the number of students is snowballing as word of the Literacy Council reaches potential students' spouses and employers and social services agencies, Creager said.

Though there are ample volunteer tutors in Washington County to meet the growing need for literacy advocates, Creager shoulders the brunt of the burgeoning administrative work, she said.

She donates up to 30 hours a week to interviewing and evaluating perspective students, matching students with tutors and following each student's progress.

In addition, Creager organizes monthly meetings and compiles the group's newsletters.

Besides Butler's help, volunteer Laura Likely serves as the Council's secretary, and volunteer Marlene Patterson helps with publicity, Creager said.

The organization needs more core members sharing administrative and other duties such as fund-raising, coordinating community outreach and fielding telephone calls, she said.

"I'm at burn-out stage right now," Creager said. "I need some back-up support."

The task of coordinating the Literacy Council has grown beyond the capacity for one person to manage, she said.

Creager said she finds the greatest satisfaction in teaching other adults how to read, and hopes her call for help will be answered so she can again serve as a reading tutor.

Anyone interested in volunteering with the Literacy Council of Washington County can call 301-739-4208. There will also be a meeting held to discuss the organizational crisis at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 15, at St. Mark's Episcopal Church parish hall in Boonsboro.

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