By Sallie Johnson
Twenty-six percent of adults in Memphis lack basic prose literacy skills, meaning they read below the third grade level. They are unable to understand a note from a teacher, read the instructions on a medicine bottle, or gain employment, and they generally live in poverty. Illiteracy is generational, and it is a contributing factor underlying many societal problems facing our community today. Volunteers are welcome to help Literacy Mid-South make a difference.
The Memphis Literacy Council has been a part of Cooper-Young since the late nineties, working to improve the reading skills of adult students. Another literacy organization, Mid South Reads, previously housed at the University of Memphis, has worked for a number of years to bring organizations together to address the literacy need in our city. Discussions about merging these two organizations began in the summer of 2009. The talks were successful, and on January 1, 2010, the Memphis Literacy Council and Mid South Reads joined forces to become Literacy Mid-South. In July 2010, Literacy Mid-South added yet another literacy service provider to its ranks, the Academy Tutoring Program. This group focuses on providing tutors for elementary and middle school students in five innovative Memphis charter schools.
The mission of Literacy Mid-South is to mobilize the community to maximize the impact of literacy and learning services to all segments of our population. The organization is working to realize this goal through advocacy, research, resource development, tutor training, tutoring for basic literacy, English as a second language, and family literacy workshops.
All Literacy Mid-South tutors in ESL and basic adult literacy are volunteers. A ten hour volunteer training program is held ten times a year. Volunteers are asked to commit to two hours per week for a year, however, many tutors choose to remain much longer. Opportunities are available for one-on-one tutoring, as well as for classroom teaching. Previous experience as a teacher is unnecessary.
Charter school tutors work with individual students to improve reading and math skills. This commitment is one hour a week for the school year. Tutors must attend a three hour training session and undergo a background check. Several training sessions are offered throughout the fall and early spring.
Every year Literacy Mid-South looks forward to the Cooper-Young Festival. During the Festival The Commercial Appeal sponsors a book sale at our location, 902 Cooper St., to benefit all of our programs. Over 5000 new books will be available for purchase that day. There will be a Preview Party held before the Festival on Friday, September 17, from 4-7pm. Tickets for the Preview Party are $20. Party attendees will enjoy food, wine, and live music. They will also have the first opportunity to peruse and purchase the fantastic books for sale. During the Festival the book sale is free and open to the public.
Whether you are interested in visiting us to learn more about our organization, to volunteer as a tutor, or to shop at the Festival book sale, all are welcome. We need your help if we are to carry out our great mission to improve literacy in this community.
By Sallie Johnson