Mind & Spirit

The Literacy Council: Empowering People of All Ages to Achieve

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The Literacy Council’s volunteers have helped countless adults and children improve their reading, math and computer literacy skills. Learn how you can take a class at, or volunteer with, the organization.

Volunteers at The Literacy Council, in Rockford, help a wide variety of adults to improve their skills in reading, math and computers. (Photos provided by Sheryl Thogreson, executive director, The Literacy Council)

Volunteers at The Literacy Council, in Rockford, help a wide variety of adults to improve their skills in reading, math and computers. (Photos provided by Sheryl Thogreson, executive director, The Literacy Council)

In downtown Rockford, on the corner of Napoleon Street and North Main Street, stands a lovely old brick house. A passerby might think this residence houses a family of friendly neighbors. And it does, but this house is home to much more. Equipped with an open door and a little library on every floor, the house is a meaningful place to many people in Rockford.

Inside this warm home, you’ll find The Literacy Council, a home to hundreds of individuals who are being “empowered to achieve” through literacy.

Adult Programming

Since 1985, The Literacy Council has positively changed the lives of countless adults via a variety of adult education programs. Adults come to experience one-on-one tutoring to improve their reading skills, attend a class for reading and math, or strengthen their computer literacy.

There are more than 150 volunteer tutors who come to The Literacy Council to help other adults learn to read. The tutors spend two hours each week with their learner. They prepare lessons, assign homework and even administer tests.

One of those dedicated tutors is Bailey.

As a 23-year-old medical student, Bailey felt she could make a difference in her community, so she chose The Literacy Council to help reach her goal. When she was asked about the most rewarding part of being a one-on-one tutor, she shared that it has given her the opportunity to learn about South Korea, the home of her learner. Pieces of their different cultures are shared each week when they meet.

“We have genuinely become friends. You get to see how the work you do directly impacts the life of the learner,” Bailey says. She is just one example of a volunteer at The Literacy Council.

Computer literacy is another important component of the programs at The Literacy Council. Joel Gil, a Venezuela native, came to America in hopes of furthering his career in information technology. He asked The Literacy Council if a tutor could help him to master English. Now, he teaches several computer skills to those who struggle. Learners from all backgrounds, education levels and career paths come to learn the basics of computer literacy. He teaches how to create and use an email account, create and save files, and search the internet.

Recently, The Literacy Council teamed up with The Workforce Connection, where Gil teaches a job-search class. Building a resume, submitting an online application and using email are topics covered in the course.

The Literacy Council is currently serving learners from 32 countries in multiple capacities. Some participate in one-on-one tutoring, some take computer classes and others attend English as a Second Language (ESL) and Adult Basic English (ABE) classes taught by one of The Literacy Council’s six certified teachers. Residents of Belvidere have the opportunity to attend ESL classes at the Salvation Army Community Center, 422 S. Main St.

Rockford residents attend ABE classes at The Literacy Council, while Rasmussen College, 6000 E. State St., in Rockford, is a location for Rockford ESL classes.

Additional locations for tutoring include the Rockford Public Libraries, Ida Public Library in Belvidere, North Suburban Library in Loves Park, Ill., and Byron Public Library in Byron, Ill. Students improve their basic literacy skills in hopes of achieving the ability to read at the ninth-grade level. Once students have tested out of the program at The Literacy Council, they are referred to GED classes or career readiness programs. People from all over the world are empowered to achieve with a little help from The Literacy Council.

Family Literacy

Sitting in the lobby of Crusader Community Health, 1100 Broadway St., in Rockford, or at the Winnebago County Well Child Clinic at 555 N. Court St., Rockford, you may find a woman who is friendly to all who come in.

She has a box of books and wears a nametag from The Literacy Council. She is not there to pass the time. She is one of the instructors, and she is there for a purpose: to educate and emphasize the importance of reading, even for the smallest child.

Well Child is a Literacy Council program that models reading skills for families. The instructor reads stories with the children and shares tips with the parent or guardian to improve reading at home. Each child receives a book to add to their home library.

Preschoolers at various locations in the Rockford area have the opportunity to participate in a Parent and Child Together (PACT) Program. Taught by the program director at The Literacy Council, PACT focuses on spending time reading as a family. Students are accompanied by their parent or guardian while they spend an hour doing literacy activities together.

Each family is given a book for each child and a packet of materials to take home. The goal of this program is to promote family reading time in the household, which increases the child’s love of reading at an early age.

Literacy for Children

John, a volunteer, walks into a school on the first day of the year. Spotted by one of the children he mentors, he is greeted with a big hug from the overjoyed child, who exclaims “Mr. John! I thought I wouldn’t see you again!”

John has been reading with this student since Kindergarten, and he receives the same greeting every year. They spend the allotted 20 minutes a week together reading, but sometimes they just talk about the student’s family, how school is going or what they did over the weekend.

Through the I READ program, a partnership between The Literacy Council and United Way, John and his student have created a positive mentoring relationship around reading. His impact on the student is immense. Every year, John returns to the school and continues to encourage this student to read.

More than 300 I READ volunteers serve at four school districts: Harlem, Meridian, Oregon and Rockford Public Schools. This program has helped students in Winnebago and Ogle counties to grow more confident and learn to experience the joy of reading, all because one volunteer decided to commit their time to a student.

A Place for You

On any given day, The Literacy Council is buzzing with activity. Learners meet with their tutors. Students file in before class. The phone rings with many requests. Staff members are busy matching learners with tutors, contacting volunteers and preparing materials for classes.

This is a place that flourishes because of the volunteers who choose to embody the organization’s mission on a daily basis. Empowering people to achieve can take many forms, and The Literacy Council is sure to make achievement individualized. With close to 150 tutors and close to 300 I READ volunteers, The Literacy Council is a place for all who have a heart for the community.

If empowering someone to achieve sparks your interest, call (815) 963-7323. The Literacy Council would love to be “home” for you, too.

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