PARKERSBURG - Helping others learn to read or improving their reading skills is the goal of the Mid-Ohio Valley Literacy Volunteers.
Phyllis Perkins, board member, said since September is National Literacy Month, the group is working to increase awareness of help available in the area for those who cannot read.
"We are wanting to create an awareness of our presence," she said. "We are trying to do an outreach for those who could use our services, we are a nonprofit organization and a United Way agency."
Jerrold Murphy , president of the board of directors, said the primary focus is teaching people how to read.
"The primary thing we look for is people who need our help to improve reading skills. Our mission is to help adults to improve reading skills or English as a second language," he said. "We have quite a few here in Parkersburg and Wood County who need that service."
Murphy said the group can work on other subjects related to reading.
"Primarily we focus on literacy," he said. "If needed we can move on into math, since deficiency in math rises out of a deficiency in reading."
Murphy said during literacy month the group is pushing to get the word out they are available and able to help.
"For us the difficulty laid out before us is reaching those who need us," he said. "Because they can't read, we have to reach out to friends and neighbors who are aware of those who need help and are in a position to help them."
Murphy said the literacy volunteers can be reached by calling the Parkersburg and Wood County Public Library at 304-420-4613 daily from 10 a.m.-noon. Murphy added tutoring may take place any time the library is open.
At this time Perkins said the group has 15-20 students. She said the students come and go as they reach certain goals in improving their skills. All tutoring is private and confidential.
Tutors and students meet at the library in a tutoring room that is private and it also includes computer equipment.
"They also need to learn computer basics," she said. "We have an evaluation process to determine their level of reading reached prior to the program and we try to make the program geared to them as individuals. Sometimes we work with groups of four or five, if that is the preference of the student, usually they are family or co-workers."
Perkins said the literacy volunteers serve Wood and outlying counties. Many are surprised to learn the illiteracy rate in Wood County is 15 percent and the West Virginia rate is 20 percent, according to the 2010 census.
"We are always looking to people to support us by volunteering or by monetary donations," she said. "We have 25 tutors and we have some who are trained and waiting to work with someone."
Perkins said the qualifications for prospective volunteers include an interest in helping others and a knowledge of teaching or teaching ability or those who are willing to learn. Volunteers also need to have at least a high school education.
"We interview and screen them and they sign a confidentiality agreement and we check their background," she said. "We have turned away a couple of people."
The Mid-Ohio Valley Literacy Volunteers has 14 board members who meet on a monthly basis. The group has an office at the library manned part-time.
Perkins said one group they are trying to recruit as tutors are those who are teachers along with someone with a lot of patience, an empty nester looking for a way to contribute to the community but who does not have a specific place to go.
"We like to talk with individuals and talk with them about what they can do and help us," she said.
Perkins said the group is getting ready for a community fundraiser in partnership with Bob Evans Restaurant, from 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Sept. 27 at the Traffic Circle and Mineral Wells locations.
She said if one makes a purchase of a meal and has one of their cards attached to the receipt, the Mid-Ohio Valley Literacy Volunteers will get a portion of the receipt. Perkins said they plan to place the cards at the libraries in Parkersburg and Vienna, banks, and or they will be available from board members.