Library Partners to Create Community Literacy Center

Eric Hansen, head of circulation and reference at the Vicksburg District Library, will be helping with the Literacy Council program at the library this fall.

By Eric Hansen

Vicksburg District Library is working with South County Community Services (SCCS) and the Kalamazoo Literacy Council (KLC) to develop an Adult Literacy Center in southern Kalamazoo County.

Linda Adams from the Library, Danna Downing of Community Services, and Michael Evans of the Literacy Council are collaborating to create a program that provides a range of tutoring services such as assistance with reading comprehension, training with computers, and assistance with studying for the GED. The program relies on volunteers, presenting an opportunity for Vicksburg residents to give back to the community. This is exceptionally important due to the number of people in Kalamazoo County who struggle with reading comprehension issues.

Evans, executive director of the Literacy Council, has explained that “in Kalamazoo County more than 25,000 people, or 13 percent of adults, cannot read a simple story to a child, an intersection on a map, a prescription label or total purchases from an order form.”

Evans expressed the impact on adults who struggle with literacy, including challenges to effective parenting, looking for employment and working on job sites and participating in the community socially and politically. The ability to read and comprehend language is vital for understanding news and politics. Good reading comprehension is necessary for considering and judging if legal agreements, news, or advertisements are accurate and how they can affect a person. Adults who struggle with literacy can find it difficult to participate in social opportunities, which can lead to feelings of alienation or missed chances.

Because a range of information and opportunities have migrated to the Internet, it is important that Kalamazoo County residents understand how to use computers. Residents can use computers to write resumes, buy and sell items, complete healthcare research and communicate via e-mail. Vicksburg District Library is assisting in this initiative by providing free space where tutors can meet with adult learners. On many dates there are private rooms available for this training.

Privacy is especially important because adult learners often wish to discuss literacy questions privately and receive training on a one-on-one basis. Because of the individual attention offered by this program, the new Literacy Center needs volunteers who are available to receive training and participate on a weekly basis. Evans wants to train at least five volunteers before the Vicksburg Literacy Center opens during October.

Community members who would like to learn about volunteering should attend the first volunteer orientation meeting. This is scheduled August 28 from 7-8:30 p.m. at Vicksburg District Library on South Michigan Ave. During that meeting, Evans will present information on goals for the literacy center, roles that are available, and free training that is available to people who assist with the program. More information is also available by calling the Literacy Council at (269) 382-0490, extension 222, or by calling Linda Adams, office manager for Vicksburg District Library, at (269) 649-1648.

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