This article is one in a series of stories focusing on local agencies that receive support from the United Way of Chaves County, which is currently conducting its annual fundraising campaign.
Dictionaries may provide the gift of words, but reading is the gateway to knowledge and a world beyond our door. Founded in 1974, the Roswell Literacy Council is the oldest in the state of New Mexico. “We serve a critical need in Roswell … and a powerful purpose,” said Executive Director Andrae England.
She noted that there are established links between literacy development, poverty and poor health. The goal she said is not learning to read, but reading to learn. “Literacy development is not just for reading; it’s for understanding.”
The Literacy Council doesn’t only teach reading; it teaches math skills. The council’s tutors concentrate on practical applied math skills. “High level math, like calculus, are often never used in people’s lives,” England explained.
Council tutors, including England, are working with students from Youth ChalleNGe. Each course at Youth ChalleNGe, whether in reading development or math, run the full 22 weeks of the program. “Some will stay in Roswell and their courses can continue,” England said. Nineteen students at Youth ChalleNGe are taking math and nine taking both reading and math.
The Literacy Council has 70 students and will normally run about 100 per year. It also has 30 active tutors, but is always in need of more. Tutors do not need to be professional teachers. The council uses the one-on-one approach to teaching. “It has proven the most powerful,” said England.
She said many students have had bad experiences in the past in school and quite simply gave up on learning, convinced often that they were incapable of succeeding in school. “One of the questions we always ask the Youth ChalleNGe cadets in particular is: ‘How is test-taking for you?’ There are always stories related to too many anxiety-provoking experiences.”
England explained that everyone who comes to the Literacy Council has exhibited resiliency and have the willpower to overcome any issues that may have developed when they were in school.
She said that a large part of the program is giving each person who enters the doors at 609 W. 10th St. support. “Parts of our tutoring toward learning in general and test-taking in particular are encouraging, coaching and strategies to prepare them to do their best. … I always tell tutors that within the word en-couragement is courage — we want never to forget that encouragement is part of our practice.”
England urges interested parties to come to their facility. “It could be the opportunity of a lifetime. We strongly focus on motivation. You have no boundaries if you are determined.”
Another part of the process is tailoring the course to the needs of the individual. “Learning is a process and everyone learns differently. It is helpful for everyone to learn how they learn,” England said.
Those who want to become tutors can log on to the Pro-literacy Education Network website at proliteracyednet.org to look at the training program and find out if it is something they would like to do. The council used to teach this in-house, but now tutors can take all the classes they need online. Once they have had a chance to review the courses, she recommends people call the Literacy Council at 575-625-1369 for more information.
Like many nonprofits funds are a perennial problem, but United Way is a major contributor. She describes United Way assistance as invaluable. “They have been a mega-blessing for us. We couldn’t do it without their support. We wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for United Way.”