Literacy tutors make a difference

Many adults are easily frustrated by simple things such as losing their keys or trying to juggle a hectic schedule.

Imagine not knowing how to read.

For many adults, this is a daily struggle. They cannot read signs, notices, or pass simple tests for their driver's license or food handler's permit.

Only the people who ask for help receive tutors, said Stephanie Parson of the Multi-Service Center in Federal Way. Otherwise, she said, it is impossible to determine the actual need in the community.

The Multi-Service Center helps 150 to 200 adults learn English as a second language each year, a fraction of the total number who need help.

It is very cyclical, Parson said. When school starts in September, there is a sudden influx of adults with extra time seeking tutoring. Summer is the ideal time for tutors to receive training, simply because the demand is so much greater in the fall.

The Multi-Service Center also provides tutoring for adults seeking their GED or Adult Basic Education (ABE) to obtain the equivalent of a high school diploma.

These classes require more one-on-one attention than the ESL classes. Many of the current GED tutors juggle several classes and cannot spend adequate time dealing with individuals because the class sizes are so large.

Although preparation for the GED and ABE tests is offered at community colleges, some students are not reading at the level of typical college students.

One student said the Multi-Service Center program was very helpful because he did not succeed in the "traditional educational system," and needed to work at his own pace. It took him a year to finish, but he succeeded through the patience of his tutors, he said.

At a community college, he would have been pushed to learn by deadlines, Parson said.

The qualifications for volunteering as a tutor are simple: You must have a good heart and be patient. A volunteer does not need a college diploma, although an understanding of the test format and basic algebra skills are helpful.

Parson encourages community members to volunteer as an adult tutor and contribute to a student's success.

Whether it is to pass a standardized test or learn to read English, the Multi-Service Center trains the tutors to adhere to students' needs.

"We are very student goal-oriented," Parson said. "We make sure that they are learning what they need or want to learn so they are better functioning in their community."

Contact Lyndsey Wilson: or (253) 925-5565.

Get involved

There are currently two organizations that offer summer courses in becoming an adult literacy tutor.

The Multi-Service Center will hold an informational meeting at 6:15 p.m. July 12 at the Federal Way Regional Library. For more information, call the Multi-Service Center Adult Education Program at (253) 838-6810 Ext. 112.

The Federal Way Regional Library also offers classes on becoming an English as a Second Language tutor. The meetings will begin at 11 a.m. July 7 and July 21 at the Federal Way Regional Library. To register, call the library at (253) 838-3668.

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