MOV volunteers work to promote literacy

Editor’s Note: This article is the next in a series about the member agencies of the United Way Alliance of the Mid-Ohio Valley.

PARKERSBURG – Promoting literacy among adults is the goal of the Literacy Volunteers of the Mid-Ohio Valley.

John Swales, executive director the Literacy Volunteers of the Mid-Ohio Valley, said the group works to help increase literacy in Wood, Wirt and Ritchie counties.

To help reach that goal the group received $5,000 from The United Way Alliance of the Mid-Ohio Valley for volunteer recruitment, tutor training and office expenditures related to program delivery. He said there are about 30 members of the organization and one paid part-time office manager. The group currently has 20 students.

Swales said the services are provided one on one, are confidential and free to adults who need them or want them.

“They are in the areas of basic reading and writing, English as a second language, which is a growing and important area for us,” he said.

Swales said the service also helps with other basic life skills such as math or financial literacy. Swales said the Literacy Volunteers of the Mid-Ohio Valley is not a substitute for the educational system.

“We are really more of an adjunct to them,” he said. “In fact programs like Adult Basic Education often refer people to us that we can help. It’s because of one thing that is unique, we offer the one on one side of it.”

Swales said the group is independent but is part of Literacy West Virginia which in turn is part of Pro Literacy America. He said Pro Literacy America sets standards for basic reading and writing, printed materials from a group called New Readers Press and provides certification for people who have been trained to provide literacy services.

“It’s kind of an interlocking local, state and national program,” he said. “We are also a proud member of the United Way Alliance, they are a crucial part of our survival as a nonprofit group.”

Swales said the United Way provides 40 percent of the operating budget and is a way for the group to network with other organizations. Swales said the Literacy Volunteers of the Mid-Ohio Valley is a group made up of local people volunteering their time to help local people do things.

“In the process not only do they help those people, but the community as a whole,” he said. “In West Virginia, 20 percent of adults do not read and write above what is called Federal Function Level One and in Wood County the percentage is 15 percent.”

Swales said anyone below that level can not do things needed to function in society.

“We need to make sure people are aware we are here to help them, getting them to us and letting us help them get the help they need,” he said.

One person receiving the services of the Literacy Volunteers of the Mid-Ohio Valley is Maricarmen Camacho de Turner. She said while she can read and write, she wants to improve her skills in English, especially in using idioms or figures of speech.

“Everybody uses idioms and for me that is difficult,” she said.

Camacho de Turner said a friend of hers told her about the literacy volunteers about three months ago.

“My issue in Marietta there was no one to help me in the mornings because in the afternoon I dedicate my time to my kids,” she said. “When she told me they helped her in the mornings, that was great for me so I decided to come and talk with the people here to see if they could help me too.”

Camacho de Turner came to America two years ago when her husband’s job moved him here. She said she found she was not able to help her children with their school work. She said she knew the basics of English and a little more because she learned it in school and her parents taught her it was important to learn another language. She began to teach her children English when they were babies.

“I picked up English,” she said. “I had decided I wanted to come to America and live here but I did not know if I ever would.”

Camacho de Turner said she has been helped because she knew she needed to improve her language skills for her children and for herself since her children are now in school. For a time she said she was confused by what she heard in public. Tutoring was more comfortable for her than a class because she can explain what she needs to understand better and she and the tutor can work on those areas.