Literacy Project opens new office in Edwards |

Literacy Project opens new office in Edwards

Scott N. Miller

EDWARDS – Most adults take reading and writing for granted. For everyone else, there’s the Literacy Project.Operating out of an office at the Avon library, the Literacy Project has helped people learn to read and write, one-on-one and in classrooms at local schools. Now, the nonprofit group has a second location.The new facility is just west of the Lake Creek Village apartments in Edwards, in a building formerly occupied by Colorado Mountain College. The office is run by Katherine Lynn, the site’s head tutor and volunteer coordinator.There are plenty of students and volunteers to coordinate. Across the valley, about 125 volunteers help about 675 students. Most, but not all, of those students are learning English. “We have a lot of international students,” Literacy Project Director Colleen Gray said. “Spanish isn’t the predominate language of our students.”Students range in age from middle-aged adults to young kids. And, as with most volunteer-driven groups, there’s always room for more help.”Our biggest volunteer need is for middle schoolers and adults,” Lynn said. The greatest need is for volunteers in Edwards and the western valley, Literacy Project Director Colleen Gray added.”We have more students in Avon, but our downvalley population is growing,” Gray said.One-on-oneA lot of the volunteers help individuals. Katie Bartell’s work with middle schoolers has resulted in some lasting friendships. “I keep in touch with two of my old students,” Bartell said. “We get together once in a while. It’s letting them know I still care.”Bartell started with the Literacy Project about four years ago. Her story is similar to those of a lot of people toiling for nonprofit groups.”I wanted to get involved,” Bartell said.”It’s very rewarding,” she added. “You can see the difference you’ve made in the lives of these students.”For the past few years, Bartell has worked with a different middle schooler every year. Her student this year, Tony, is just in seventh grade, and Bartell hopes she can keep working with him another year.While schools provide classes for kids learning English, the Literacy Project helps outside of class, which is important for kids who speak Spanish at home. Those services are free.”It’s important for the kids who can’t afford tutors,” Bartell said.While the volunteers are working for free, the instruction they give is anything but amateur.”All you really need is a desire to help motivate a child,” Lynn said. “Knowing Spanish is helpful, but not necessary… We provide the materials, and kids’ homework often provides the structure.”Going to school While there’s plenty of help with school work during the one-on-one sessions, the Literacy Project also works to get adults and preschoolers inside local schools.The group’s “family literacy nights” bring adults into local schools for English lessons. While the grownups are in class, kids go into classes of their own. There’s some English instruction for the little ones, but much of the instruction is geared toward getting kids more literate in their native language so they’re better prepared to learn English. The adults benefit from time in schools, too, Gray said.”Being in the schools prepares them to enter that environment when their kids start,” she said.In their own classes, adults get real world help.”We try to give help for daily life,” Lynn said. “We talk about dealing with the post office, the bank, the landlord… There’s a lot of role-playing.”The classes aren’t just for new arrivals. One student told Gray she’d been in the valley for more than 10 years, but wanted help with her English to help her children with their school work.To do that, though, it helps to speak English at home, something that doesn’t happen in a lot of immigrant households. “We really encourage people to speak English, at home, at work, whenever they can,” Gray said. “There’s a risk to that, but they need to keep trying.”With a new office and new staff person available, Gray said she hopes more locals will volunteer to help. “If we had more volunteers, school counselors might refer people to us more,” Lynn said. “We want to get to that point.”=========To learn more,For more information on the Literacy Project, call 926-0522 or 949-5026.==============Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 613, or Daily, Vail Colorado

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