BY SAWYER CORNELIUS
The crisis of adult illiteracy in the greater Salisbury area now faces a new enemy.
The Project READ program, sponsored by the Wicomico County Public Libraries, aims to decrease the proportion of illiterate adults within the local Salisbury and surrounding communities.
Project READ is a free one-on-one literacy program that assists adults in becoming fluent in basic reading, writing, fundamental mathematics, health and finance.
Wynnette Curtis, coordinator of the libraries’ program, spoke regarding the intentions and goals of the Project READ initiative.
“The adult literacy program is an innovation of one-on-one tutoring in areas of basic writing and math to computer-operation skills,” Curtis said. “[It] is more effective and tailored to individual learning styles as opposed to class-like settings.”
The current READ program, launched in September 2016, is the third iteration of several attempts at decreasing the statistic of Salisbury’s illiterate populous.
Past issues pertaining to funding and staffing have made the jumpstarting of READ far from easeful.
This time around, grants have been secured from organizations such as the the United Way, Henson Foundation, Friends of the Library and various Salisbury Rotary Clubs to ensure a permanent, more stable duration of the program’s existence.
“In the long-run, we aim to make READ an incorporated service of the library,” Curtis said.
The program’s qualified and dedicated volunteer literacy coaches provide tutoring sessions twice a week solely for the benefit of serving those less educated.
Coaches range from Wicomico County Health Department employees to local retirees; all of whom sign privacy agreements to secure tutees’ confidentiality.
Two Salisbury University faculty members participate in training the program’s prospective coaches and even take part in mentoring local illiterate.
Leonard Arvi, Ph.D., a professor of economics and finance at SU, explains his involvement with the program.
“The experience is very fulfilling, and I believe that it is a positive change to which I can help contribute,”Arvi said. “I assist in matters of finance; ranging from budgeting, money management, debts and check-cashing locations.”
Arvi joined the initiative after attending a city council meeting regarding the high volume of local employment opportunities in comparison to the low supply of qualified workers.
“The Wicomico County libraries announced the project at the meeting,” Arvi said. “…and with my experience in teaching money-saving and investment lessons in the past at James M. Bennett High, I decided to help train interested volunteer coaches for the program.”
Koomi Kim, Ph.D., a member of SU’s May Literacy Center, is also an integral part of the university’s contribution to the program at large.
As the host of supportive sessions of READ’s numerous tutors often held at the May Center, Kim shared some insight.
“I am very impressed with both the coordination of the program and motivation of the program’s volunteer coaches,” Kim said.
The program encourages one-on-one coaching staff from within the community.
The libraries’ downtown branch will be hosting an employment readiness seminar on Wednesday, April 26 from 10:00 a.m. to 12:30 a.m.
More information about Project READ is available at www.wicomicolibrary.org/project-read or 410-749-3612, ext. 159.