Phil Brown has been helping people learn to read for the past six years.
"I like the fact that you see a student bloom," said Brown, a volunteer tutor for the Adult Literacy and Essential Skills Program at the Tillsonburg Multi-Service Centre. "That's what I like, seeing that student over time develop self-esteem. Instead of walking along with his head down, it gives him a reason to talk to people and feel better about things."
Brown likes to begin his literacy class asking general questions. How did your week go, what did you do?
"Sometimes, when they first start, they don't give very good answers. Then after a while they start to open up."
Reading, he said, gives them access to the world.
"With the adult literacy program we have small groups," Wendy Woodhouse, program coordinator for the Adult Literacy and Essential Skills Program at the MSC. "One is an upgrade, one is in basic computer. The other component is volunteer tutor matches."
Literacy and learning how to read and write, she agreed, contribute to self-esteem.
"It is ideal that we have one-to-one tutoring, because a number of individuals would not consider small group or class involvement."
Tutors are provided support, she said, over time, as well as at the initial tutor training workshops which are available at the Multi-Service Centre on Saturday, Oct. 29 and Saturday, Nov. 5, to help people become volunteer tutors.
"We always like to have open communication," said Woodhouse.
Student-tutor matches are typically long term, said Brown, meeting once a week for two hours.
"We ask volunteers for at least a one year commitment," said Woodhouse. "But I can tell you, we have many tutors who continue on."
Students are asked to stay on as long as they want. Some are tutored for six months, some several years.
"Some students find that there's not that kind of pressure they may have sensed when they were younger. In some cases, the school experience was not favourable for them."
It depends on individual students, said Brown.
And when it clicks, he said some will go home and grab anything - a newspaper or whatever.
"And this is good."
Some are learning English as a second language, and communicate well, but can't put it on paper or the computer.
Woodhouse remembers a student who once told her, 'when I would read, I would read every word. And by the time I was done the paragraph, I could not understand the meaning. He said, 'Now when I read... it all comes out like it was a movie.' It was powerful, the way he explained it to me."
About 65 per cent of the tutors in the MSC program are seniors, Woodhouse noted.
"They come with wonderful skills, whether from previous jobs or volunteer experiences. When I met with Phil, it was interesting because he told me about his work history, and then he told me that he liked to not only read, but he liked to write. He writes poems."
If you would like more information on how to become a volunteer tutor, contact Wendy Woodhouse at 519-842-9008 ext 266.