The Duncan Area Literacy Council doesn’t get much press, but it’s been around since 1985.
Initially organized to teach adults to read, the basic mission for those involved has never changed.
And while the council’s core mission remains the same, changes have been made to the program to keep it alive.
That includes having Cheryl Dowell come on board as director, a position she’s held since the fall of 2011. Another priority the group is stressing is achieving more community awareness.
Dowell said the DALC’s main goal is to teach adults, 18 and over, to read. It also includes teaching English to those who read or speak another language.
“We currently have six adult learners who are receiving one-on-one tutoring,” said Dowell.
This year, DALC is kicking off a huge fundraiser to promote awareness of its mission. Between 5 and 9:30 p.m. Monday, April 23, council supporters will be at CherryBerry (1803 N. U.S. Highway 81) in conjunction with National World Book Night. A percentage of the store’s sales that evening will go to DALC.
In addition, World Book will be distributing thousands of books to bring awareness to worldwide literacy efforts.
At the Duncan event, the first 50 families who participate in the CherryBerry fundraiser will also receive a free book. “The World Book Night is billed as the biggest book giveaway ever,” Dowell noted.
Housed at First United Methodist Church, the DALC has a board of seven members dedicated to promoting literacy throughout Duncan and the area. The number isn’t limited to the active board members, though.
“We have a group of 12 tutors who are all willing and prepared to make an impact on the 25 percent of Stephens County’s population who are unable to read or write at the third-grade level,” Dowell said.
The still-new director admitted tutoring isn’t easy. Board members are not involved in the tutoring process. In researching the DALC’s history, three years after the group was formed there were 52 people attending training to serve as tutors. They were required to attend a 10-hour workshop to gain the needed skills. The curriculum was based on the “Laubach Method,” which is not a short-cut process and was based on visual recognition and repetition.
Now the program mainly uses the “Voyager System,” Dowell said, and when needed, “Hooked on Phonics” is used.
The council also works with other agencies to help promote literacy; for example, encouraging young mothers to read to their infants.
Tutors are responsible for preparing their lessons and instruction time can be at least once a week, if not more. All tutors are also volunteers.
“We are always in need of more people who are willing to volunteer and we would encourage anyone interested to let us know,” Dowell said.
Tutoring is confidential, which is important to some of the adult students who’ve made the decision to learn how to read or improve their reading skills.
In order to keep the organization a continuing service, several fundraisers are held and grants are sought.
“Grants are very important to our organization,” Dowell said. “We’ve applied for several grants and we continue to work to acquire funding to purchase necessary curriculum, provide training and to purchase needed items.”
Dowell said the FUMC has been extremely beneficial, providing an office space for tutoring, and recently its choir held a fundraiser and shared profits with the DALC.
The council has also reapplied to again become a United Way agency, and the McCasland Foundation has been generous, too, Dowell noted.
Last fall, an effort was made to improve community knowledge of the DALC’s purpose, with flyers posted in businesses and agencies throughout Duncan.
“We also keep our message in front of the public by using the local cable channel where our information runs constantly,” Dowell added. This allows people who can read to share with those needing assistance.
“We hope to help adults become functionally literate,” Dowell pointed out. “We want to prepare them to lead productive lives.”
As for World Book Night, it was first held in 2011 in London and Dowell believed 1 million books were provided, including to those in hospitals and prisons.
Ireland and Germany have joined the World Book Night project, and with the United States now partnering, it’s expected another 1 million books will be shared in 2012.
Dowell hoped World Book Night in Duncan can reach those who need the help most. She also hoped more people will get involved as tutors.
DALC board of directors include Dowell; Sue Loughridge, president; Marilyn Hamlin, vice president; Sue Gibbons, treasurer; members Kitty Clifton and Kathy Johnson; and ex-officio member, Jan Cole.
For information, contact Dowell at 580-252-4322.
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