Council gains ground in campaign for literacy

Monday, April 7, 2003
Volunteer tutor and Carroll County Literacy Council President Ethel Meyer, at right, worked with a student Wednesday morning at the Carroll County Literacy Council facility on East Church Street, just off the square in Berryville. The day's lesson began with focus on the symbology of the American flag. CCN E. Alan Long

If you are reading this, you probably take it for granted that you can.

There are people in Carroll County who can't. While there are those citizens who may not have learned to read in the public schools, most students of the Carroll County Literacy Council are immigrants who need to learn English to function in American society.

April has been designated by ProLiteracy America as Literacy Month, and on April 12, the literacy council will host Literacy Day. According to Tim Lehr, general manager of the Berryville Wal-Mart Supercenter, the event will get under way there at 10 a.m.

Carroll County Literacy Day will feature celebrity reader Laura Shofner, of Eureka Springs, who writes Harlequin Romances using the name of Laura Abbott. Lehr is working on having copies of her latest Harlequin release available, which literacy council volunteers would sell on behalf of the store.

"You may have seen a list of state mottos that said the motto for Arkansas is 'Liturussee aint everthin'," or some such insult," said Carol W. Malone, secretary for the county's literacy council. "We at the Carroll County Literacy Council are working on changing that misconception, one student at a time. Our organization is all-volunteer and free to adults who want to learn to read. We tutor them one-on-one, when it suits the student's schedule."

The council works on a very small budget, and state and federal grants have been reduced year after year, according to Vivian Stone, of Holiday Island, student-tutor coordinator.

The operation stays afloat through money-making projects, such as bake sales and garage sales. Stone praised the membership of the Holiday Island Presbyterian Church, which has donated proceeds from an annual spaghetti dinner to the council twice in recent years. "This year they really outdid themselves," Stone said.

With the leadership of Ethel Meyer as president, the council moved into new facilities on East Church Street in Berryville last year. Since moving in, the space has been decorated, with new flooring, paint and furnishings to create a bright and pleasant environment for learning.

Stone reports that the facility has a fairly large room where lessons can be conducted, and a smaller room in front. "There's gobs of storage in back," Stone said, "and we have books, book cases, computers, dictionaries, of course ---- everything under the sun."

Most tutoring takes place in the front room, with overflow space at tables and chairs in back. Dictionaries can be found throughout the facility.

The student population varies, generally between 14 and 20, Stone estimated. A tutor works with a single student for a day, though sometimes two tutors split a day's work with a student. Lessons are conducted once or twice a week, depending on the student's schedule.

Instruction is primarily for English as a second language. Hispanics, an ever-increasing segment of the population, make up a large part of the student body. Students have also included Czechs, Koreans, Filipinos and one Argentinian exchange student.

Volunteers utilize the time-tested Laubach Method of learning to read. Althea Smith was personally acquainted Dr. Frank Laubach, who developed the method, and still serves as a volunteer tutor.

The Laubach Method utilizes eight basic workbooks, covering basic reading and word forms. Another set of books, based on federal citizenship texts, provides U.S. civics instruction. "That's what I love," said Stone.

Stone reports that at one time the literacy council was defunct, but was reinvigorated under the presidency of Beverly Hanby. Hanby had to resign, due to health problems in the family, and Sandy Parr assumed the presidency. "That's when it really took off," said Hanby.

When Stone retired to Holiday Island, after a career in private business, she wanted to "do something for someone else," she said. She learned of the literacy council, and took the training, and is now in her second decade of service.

As coordinator, she uses a box of index cards to keep up with students and tutors. Students learn of the service by word of mouth or from radio announcements, since, obviously, they can't read about it in an English-language newspaper. The council also works with employers, such as Tyson Foods,

"I enjoy seeing them [students] progress," Stone said. "We've gotten pupils in citizenship study, which I think is really important. To see them read, and write all of a sudden is a pleasure to see, of course."

All interested people are encouraged to turn out for Literacy Day and meet the celebrity reader. Information on volunteering will be available at the event, or by calling the council at (870) 423-4500.

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