Adult literacy group seeks Ottawa County residents

In a room of the Grand Haven Community Center on Thursday evening, Amy VanOordt told volunteers about her experience as an adult literacy tutor. As her audience sipped coffee and munched on cheese and crackers, VanOordt said that her time spent as a tutor for Reading Enables Adult Development has been gratifying - despite initial misgivings. "I was very overwhelmed after my tutor training experience, but don't let that stop you,' she said to her audience, shortly before they began their own tutor training session.
Jordan Travis
Apr 5, 2011


VanOordt was talking about volunteering for the Grand Haven adult literacy program founded by Sherry Mitchell.
Mitchell decided to start the program after she and others called Loutit and Spring Lake district libraries in November 2009 and asked if they could volunteer for some kind of adult literacy program. Mitchell said they were told that no such program existed, so she began organizing a program with now-retired Loutit District Library Director Sandie Knes.

Within six months, R.E.A.D. became an official organization and took on its first students, Mitchell said.

The organization offers one-on-one tutoring to adults — age 18 and older — once per week, Mitchell said. Any adult in or near Ottawa County can seek out the service.

Funds for the all-volunteer group come from the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation, the Boer Family Foundation and private donations, among other sources, Mitchell said.

Tutored students come from many different backgrounds and have different reading needs, Mitchell said.

“It’s very difficult for them to go forward” and seek help, she said. “They haven’t had a positive education experience, so they’re skeptical. We ensure that their experience will be positive, private and comfortable. Our tutors are very empathetic and respectful.”

There are more than 26,000 adults in Ottawa County who are at the lowest literacy level, according to information from the program. They are among the 18 percent of Michigan’s adult population at the same reading level.

The cause behind reading difficulties is varied, Mitchell said, but there are some reasons that crop up repeatedly. These include the fact that traditional teaching methods might not suit an individual, unaddressed or unrecognized learning difficulties, or personal or family challenges that interfered with their education.



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