Volunteer tutors are always needed in Lehigh to help others learn to speak English, says Charlotte Rae Nicely, the executive director of Lehigh Community Services, whose offices provide space for the Lehigh Acres Literacy Council.
According to the last census of Lehigh, about a third of the population is Hispanic and many of these news residents do not speak English and neither do their children, although the county educational system has classes for students to learn English.
Nicely said residents in Lehigh are always ready to help and becoming a tutor at the literacy council, is one wonderful way to help the community. Her offices are at 201 Plaza Drive in Lehigh.
Charlotte Rae Nicely
"Folks who want to help do not have to be teachers; in fact, they don't have to have any knowledge of instructing others. The reason is because we have the resources here that will show them an easy way to become a tutor.
"In fact, the program is so successful that anyone can become a tutor and teach English to anyone who is unable to speak or understand the language," Nicely said.
"When a person is in this program, they will learn to read and write in English."
There are materials for both the tutor and the student and Nicely said those who volunteer and those who want to speak English can easily set up times to work together. And it doesn't have to be at the office, she said. "Whatever is convenient, whatever they can work out together is fine. We have had some tutors even help out at a local restaurant, and others at the library," she said.
For more than 30 years, teachers, tutors, and learners have depended on this unique approach to reading instruction. The Laubach method was developed specifically to help adults with limited or no reading skills achieve success and become confident readers. This structured, phonics-based series works even with learners who have had negative experiences with other reading programs.
Laubach Way to Reading is based on Dr. Frank Laubach's years of research in teaching adults. The series begins with establishing the letter-sound relationships through the use of one-of-a-kind phonics charts. Then, learners progress step by step from the known-spoken words to the unknown-written words, according to a website explaining the Laubach method of teaching.
Currently, Nicely said there is a waiting list of perhaps 20 local residents who want to learn to speak and write English.
The literacy group has been active in Lehigh for at least 30 years, Nicely said, and in that time, many, many residents have learned to speak English using the Laubach method. They may come from European countries or Latin America and other areas, she said.
Nicely noted that Mary Root of Lehigh actually began the literacy program in Lehigh three decades ago and is still volunteers her time to teach English to others. She is always looking for more tutors to help, Nicely said.
The coordinator for the program is Crescensia Medhurt of Lehigh.
"When we have the winter months we call Season, we have several 'snowbirds' who volunteer, but when they leave, we have a gap and need more tutors and that is the situation we are in now," Nicely said.
Since those who need help in learning English are not able to read a story such as this in a local publication, Nicely urges residents to spread the word to Hispanics and others who want to learn English. Also, she said she urges local residents who have some spare time, nights or on weekends, to become tutors.
"Teaching someone to read is a wonderful experience," Nicely said. You can call Lehigh Community Services to sign up for the program either as a tutor or as a student. The phone number for Lehigh Community Services is 369-5818. You can also visit the office at 201 Plaza Drive, between Homestead Rd. and Business Way.
"Remember, it only requires from one to three hours a week. Many tutors volunteer two hours a week. They get great and like I said, there's nothing like it to see people smile after they master English,. It's like having faith in your neighbors," Nicely said.