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F O C U S on literacy

Literacy Council Working to Improve Reading Skills in Artesians by Susan Cotham

Imagine that one out of ten people in Artesia cannot read this sentence. Sounds impossible, right? Wrong. According to the U.S. Department of Education, National Institute of Literacy, 14 percent of U.S. adults cannot read. June Marie Avery, of the Artesia Literacy Council, says that there are hundreds of Artesians that struggle with reading. “Possibly hundreds can’t read above 5th or 6th-grade levels and their math skills are below third grade,” she said. According to U.S. Department of Education, National Institute of Literacy, published April 28, 2013, Avery is correct. It says 21 percent of Americans cannot read above a fifthgrade level.

“I see people eager to progress,” said Avery, praising the volunteers and board of directors, who also volunteer their time. “We use everything from phonics to computer software applications. It’s whatever will help that student achieve his or her goals,” she said. According to a 2012-2013 report, the ALC had eight tutors who donated a total of 241.25 hours, along with other in-kind volunteer hours totaling 513.1. At a standard wage of $22.40 per hour, that equates to $16,897.44. As a result, one student obtained employment, one obtained citizenship, one obtained a GED and two obtained a library card.

However, Artesia doesn’t believe in ignoring this problem. Instead, the Artesia Literacy Council (ALC), located at 2002 Grand Ave., has been actively working on improving reading skills since 1995, when some concerned citizens wanted to do something for people who “fell between the cracks,” said Avery.

The ALC also works with other agencies to bring as much assistance to Artesians as possible. ALC sponsors include The New Mexico Coalition for Literacy, North Eddy County United Way, Yates Petroleum Corporation and other private donations. “We are so proud to be in a community that gives so much,” said Avery.

“The need is tremendous,” she said, citing a recent example of a young mother who came into the program after embarrassing her first-grade child. Avery said the woman helped her child with a first-grade math assignment, and all the answers were wrong. The youngster asked his mother not to help him again.

Avery hopes more people use the ALC in the future. “It’s definitely an underutilized resource,” she said, noting that many people don’t get help because of embarrassment. Others might assume that because they failed in a classroom environment, they cannot be successful.

This is where the Artesia Literacy Council makes the difference. The ALC is a no-cost, one-on-one tutoring program for people who need to learn basic literacy, English as a Second Language (ESL), pre-GED studies, U.S. citizenship studies and workplace and daily life survival skills, like filling out forms.

make sure students are successful, often meeting outside the ALC facility. “The library is used as a meeting place for the tutor and student outside of regular hours,” she said. The ALC is currently seeking more tutors to provide services for the program. According to Avery, anyone interested should have a working knowledge of the subject and a desire to help people. ALC will provide training. Avery also wants to create more community awareness of the program so that others can get help. She said there are many benefits for students. “They can get a GED, which means a better job or training, and possibly college,” she said. Reasons to read include GED, better job or training, family needs and to go to college. The service is completely free. Anyone interested can stop by and get help. All it takes is an application, and then he or she is placed with a tutor and agrees to make a commitment of two to three hours a week. According to Avery, the investment is priceless.

However, the ALC is not a typical classroom setting. “We find the one-on-one particularly effective with our non-traditional students,” Avery said, explaining that tutors go out of their way to PHOTO: June Marie Avery with the Artesia Literacy Council.

FALL 2013 | A COMMUNITY MAGAZINE

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Focus on Artesia Fall 2013  
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