VITAL provides literacy tutoring

A man in Bloomington wanted to sing in a gospel choir, but there was one 
problem: he couldn’t read.

He learned through Volunteers in Tutoring Adult Learners, a Monroe County Public Library program that provides one-on-one and small group tutoring to language learners in the community.

The man became comfortable enough with reading to join the gospel choir.

There he learned how to work a soundboard. His skills eventually led him to a job with a local radio station.

Other adult students may come to VITAL for help with working toward obtaining American citizenship, drivers licenses, high school equivalency diplomas or better jobs.

“We have at least one pair here who have stayed together for 12 years,” VITAL coordinator Bethany Terry said. “The tutor doesn’t drive anymore, so the learner picks her up.”

Terry led an orientation for new tutors in VITAL’s suite of rooms on the second floor of the library Tuesday night.

Volunteers must commit to two hours a week: a one-and-a-half hour session with their student and a thirty-minute lesson planning 

Many IU students become volunteers, but Terry said there is a good mix of students, retired teachers and community members.

“Frequently I hear from folks, ‘Oh, I’ve wanted to do VITAL for years, and I’ve just never had a chance,” Terry said, and some of the participants training echoed that thought.

At the training Tuesday night, there were 11 attendees: three current students, a retired librarian and another retired man, a freelance editor and writer, and several other community members.

Training participant Sophia Raymond studies marketing and public relations at IU.

“I want to teach an adult how to read or write or do an arithmetic problem so they can better their lives,” Raymond said.

Other volunteers-in-training had years of experience tutoring or no experience at all. Some of them had walked into the library to find a volunteer opportunity and joined the VITAL training when they heard about the program.

Terry said she hopes people come out of the trainings with a greater understanding of adult literacy.

“Adult literacy is such a hidden issue,” Terry said. “You can’t just look at someone and see their literacy level.”

In general, VITAL has about 35 learners on its waitlist, Terry said. There are never quite enough tutors to meet the demand.

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