Adult illiteracy forum planned by YES! at East St. John High

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 16, 2001


PHOTO: Wanda Dauzat of YMCA Educational Services (YES!) tutors a student at the Reserve reading center. (Staff Photo by Amy Szpara) RESERVE – In less than a week representatives with YMCA Educational Services (YES!) will hold a forum to better inform St. John Parish on their efforts to end illiteracy in the area. Members of the community, adult literacy students and their tutors, speakers and others associated with the program will come together at East St. John High School in Reserve on June 19 to discuss the needs of the parish. “We want to heighten awareness in St. John,” Wanda Dauzat, coordinator for St. John Parish said. The six reading tutors, who are all volunteers, meet their students at the reading center in Reserve, the library or in local churches to teach them to read. After going through a 12-hour workshop, they are ready to instruct students who want to learn to read. According to Dauzat, there are currently eight students who are being taught in the program. The students usually meet their tutors for one-on-one sessions twice a week for a couple of hours. “We recommend that they not meet in their homes. At home, you have the phone ringing, kids running around. It’s just not convenient for learning,” said Dauzat. The adults who come into the program vary in their reading abilities. Some adults begin with Skillbook One, a beginner’s course, and others are already at a higher level when they enter the program. From learning words by associating their pictures with the word to writing lessons, spelling and studying phonics, the 50 or so people to enter the program per year can stay and learn as long as it takes. “They can stay until they are ready. There is no set amount of time that we give them. Some students have stayed with us for five years,” said Dauzat. “My goal is to try to really reach at least 20 people a year.” Dauzat said the students they get are smart people, and they just lack a very important skill. “They’re really smart. To be able to get along that far in life, they have to be,” she said. She described some of the obstacles non-readers have which the average person take for granted. For example, a person who cannot read has to remember landmarks rather than reading road signs. Also, when grocery shopping, labels are meaningless. The pictures, however, come in handy. The program is funded by United Way. The reading program’s tutors volunteer from 12-16 hours a month. One 57-year-old LaPlace student said that he has gotten a lot out of the program. Having been in it for around two years, he is learning to write in cursive now. He did know a few words before joining the program, but he said he has made great strides. “I’m learning more. You can go anywhere when you can read. It can take you places,” he said. His tutor added, “He begins to get excited when he gets really interested.” Dauzat, who began as a tutor and who has been working with the program for seven years, said most of the tutors are just everyday people who work in town or who are stay-at-home mothers. “If they can read and write, they can tutor someone else,” she said. The forum will be held Tuesday at East St. John High School, beginning at 6:30 p.m.