News & Blog

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Guest Blogger: Anna Roseboro. Anna is a retired educator and has been a tutor with the Adult Tutoring Program since April 2017. She and her learner, Saw-ku, venture through lessons with an excitement that is evident whenever speaking with them. Their work together was recently featured in The Reader where Saw-ku shared his experience as a Burmese refugee.

Anna Roseboro for LCM

Tutoring adults one-on-one is a learning experience. Though I’m a retired teacher of English Language Arts and a former speech coach, tutoring an adult from Myanmar is a challenge for me because I’m so ignorant. Yes, ignorant. Thankfully, the Literacy Center of West Michigan understands that even experienced educators, though passionate about teaching, have much to learn. It’s the reason Literacy Center required me to attend workshops on how to interact learners from an unfamiliar country who neither shares my history or culture, language or alphabet.

 

Each week, I explore the resources the Literacy Center provides or recommends to be ready to tutor my learner. He is eager to learn and responsive to the variety to tasks built into our time together. We usually begin with his questions. What did he experience in the past week where his current level of English has not served him well? We may discuss business mail he has received, licenses that have to be renewed, or ways to approach the pharmacist to find out what can be bought over the counter and what needs a prescription. Then, we dig into the reading and writing lessons in the Challenger Series the Literacy Center recommended based on the test scores and interview to determine the competency level the prospective learner. Thankfully, it is an accurate assessment with just enough challenge and variety to keep the lessons interesting and skills progressing. He prefers non-fiction versus fiction. But is getting into the literature more than he first thought possible.

Fun With Grammar

Blogger: Carrie Roper (Literacy Coordinator)

Capture2When we think of grammar, our minds usually wander to the days in our past, stuck in a stuffy classroom in high school where we had to diagram dull sentences. Grammar is one of those skills that is part of the essential building blocks of the English language, and can vary significantly across languages. I really think we take for granted the “ear” we have developed over time, which helps us use, or intentionally not use, the correct grammar when we communicate. For this reason, grammar can be difficult for tutors to teach effectively and in an engaging way.

Azar’s Fun with Grammar is full of fantastic communicative activities to practice various grammar topics. While many of the activities are more geared towards a classroom setting, all lesson plans and worksheets can be adapted to be used in tutoring sessions. The activities are also labeled by proficiency level.

Here is an example of an activity called “Detective”:

Pearson and Penguin Active Readers Series

Blogger: Katherine Payne (Literacy Coordinator)

pearsonandpenguin

With varied topics in both fiction and non-fiction, Pearson and Penguin Active Readers combine short stories, reading activities, and an audiobook into one compact text. Titles range from classic American and British literature to important historical figures and cultural events. Some titles we have stocked in our library are The Secret Garden, Nelson Mandela, The Three Musketeers, and Frankenstein. Each printed reader comes with a CD of the complete audio recording.

Each text begins with pre-reading activities designed to engage a reader’s prior knowledge on the topic, to introduce main characters, and to encourage learners to make simple assumptions about the story. Each chapter has corresponding illustrations to provide context and reinforce a character’s emotions, relationships, or current actions. As many of our workbook series do, these stories highlight new vocabulary and provide definitions at the bottom of each page.

Miranda

Guest Blogger: Miranda Buckwald. Miranda has been part of the Literacy Center of West Michigan and the Adult Tutoring Program as an AmeriCorps member since August 2017. She tutors six English Language Learners and also facilitates our English Conversation Club. 

 As an AmeriCorps member, I serve the Literacy Center as a full-time tutor. This means I have a caseload of learners that I meet with every week and I run an event called Conversation Club.

Working closely with the Adult Tutoring Program has shown me that the best thing we offer learners is flexibility. Since August, I’ve met with learners all over Grand Rapids who have unique backgrounds and goals. I’ve met learners who work full time and learners who are raising families. I’ve met refugees, single-parents, some studying for their driver’s licenses, some working towards citizenship, and others who just want to help their children with homework.

I see these qualities reflected in the individual goals of every learner, and I get to help them work towards these goals. Sometimes, this means meeting twice in one week to study for a citizenship test scheduled the next Tuesday. Other times, it means showing a learner how to text. I’ve learned that every task, big or small, is important to my learners in their everyday lives.

We have recently re-organized our Tutor Library to make it more accessible to all our tutors. You will receive more detailed information whenever you visit us at the Literacy Center of West Michigan, but as an overview, we would like to offer you the following highlights:

  • All our supplementary books have been color-coded according to genre.
  • Textbooks and reference materials have been rearranged, and now they are ordered alphabetically.
  • We have created a catalog that will help you find the most appropriate material for the level and needs of your particular learner.

We also would like to remind you that the doors of the Tutor Library are always open! 

You may come at any time to check our materials. You also may make arrangements to meet other tutors to prepare lessons together, talk about your challenges, or just to hang out! This is a space for you!

Looking forward to seeing you at the library!

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New content especially for you, our tutors!

With this brief post, we are starting a series of monthly articles directed specifically at the tutor team of the Adult Tutoring Program. In these articles, we will be talking about textbooks, reference books and supplementary materials in our Tutor Library, tutors’ stories, and other relevant information.

Our intention is to introduce materials that could be interesting and useful for you, our tutors. Also, we wish to create a space for you to share your experiences, challenges, and accomplishments as tutors at the Literacy Center of West Michigan.

Stay tuned!

January 2018 Schedule of Tutor and Learner-Related Events and Activities

 Tutor Talk: “Unpack your Feedback”

 Tuesday, January 9 at 2:00 pm or Thursday, January 11 at 6:00 pm

The sessions are held at the Literacy Center of West Michigan's office located at 1120 Monroe Avenue NW Suite 240 Grand Rapids, MI. 

January's Tutor Talk will focus on providing written feedback to learners to help them with their writing and communication. As a tutor, you may feel overwhelmed when deciding what to correct and how to provide learners with assistance on their writing. We will talk about the skills that have proven useful for us as well as provide new ideas to help learners with their writing skills. Both sessions will discuss the same topic, but are provided at different times for your convenience. 

To register, or to get more information, contact Thomas Rodgers at (616) 459-5151, ext. 13 or trodgers@literacycenterwm.org


 Conversation Club

GR Main Library:Tuesdays in January-- 16, 23 and 30 from 2:00 pm to 3:00 pm

Kentwood Library: Wednesdays in January-- 17, 24, and 31 from 10:00 am to 11:00 am

Conversation Clubs are a great opportunity for your learner to practice English conversation with other learners of English in a relaxed environment. Topics vary per session, and there is no need to register. You may also attend the Conversation Club to support your learner and others!

For more information about Conversation Clubs contact the Literacy Center of West Michigan at (616) 459-5151, or email info@literacycenterwm.org.


Tutor Orientations

Love your experience? Tell a friend to join us for an orientation! They can register online by clicking their preferred date/time below. Looking for more dates? Check out our event calendar

Thursday, January 4 at 6.00 pm

Friday, January 12 at 10:00 am

Wednesday, January 17 at 10:00 am

Friday, January 26 at 2:00 pm


As always, the Literacy Center staff and your Literacy Coordinator are available to support you with your tutoring. Please feel free to contact us with any questions. 

Take a moment to explore the 10 breakout sessions offered at this year's Community Literacy Summit. Interested in attending this half-day event on January 25? Visit the Community Literacy Summit event page to register today. Space is limited and the event will sell out. 

Alma Bouwens, a learner in the Adult Tutoring Program, wrote this article for the winter 2017 issue of our learner newsletter, The Reader

Now that I know what vacation is, life seems to be a whole lot better. There was a time when I didn’t know whatstrawberry vacation was. My father was Texas born and met my mother on the other side of the Rio Grande in Mexico. So before I was born, my father would bring up immigrants from Texas to pick vegetables and fruit in Michigan. My father married my mother in the United States, so that made her an American citizen. Every year they would travel for miles from state to state working on farms along the way. My father had a semi-truck and could fit all our relatives and friends in the back. When they would tell us stories about their travels, we would laugh and say “you were like Gypsys.”

Rebecca Thak, a learner in the Adult Tutoring Program, wrote the following article for the winter 2017 issue of our learner newsletter, The Reader. 

Hello! My name is Rebecca Thak. I am from South Sudan. I come from a very large family.My mom and dad lived with us. We were very happy. We lived in a small town called Mayiendit with my siblings, my five brothers and four sisters. We walked to school every morning. There was no school bus available. Every day when we came back from school, we read our books and did our homework before sunset, because we had no electricity, we had only lanterns. In 2003, I got married and moved to Kenya, I went to school to improve my English. From there, I found new friends and learned Swahili. I was very excited to learn a different language.

Guest Blogger: Doroty Delli Ficorelli

I’m a mother of two boys and a wife. I moved here from Italy two years ago with my amazing family, my husband Massimo, my two sons, Diego and Marco and my dog Lilly. Doroty copy

I still remember when my husband asked me to move to the US, I had my new house my friends and my job …. I worked two years for Coca Cola Company in Modena and 11 Years for F.R A., a manufacturing company. In both of these companies, I worked in administration. And this company became my second family during the time and for that reason it was a hard decision to leave my job.

Living in the US is a good opportunity for my sons. They are learning a new language and living in a different culture.

At the beginning it was not easy for me, because I didn’t know anybody and my English was really bad.

 The Literacy Center's Annual Community Literacy Summit, Reading by Third Grade: Our Shared Opportunity, Our Shared Responsibility, will be held on Thursday, January 25, 2018 from 7:30 am- 1:00 pm at Grand Valley State University's Eberhard Center. Tickets are available at www.literacycenterwm.org/summit

Claudio SanchezWhile this may not be a familiar face, it’s likely a familiar voice to anyone who listens to public radio.

Claudio Sanchez, Education Correspondent for NPR, will be joining us as our keynote speaker at the Literacy Center of West Michigan’s Community Literacy Summit on January 25, 2018. The half day event, held at the Eberhard Center in Grand Rapids, will address the topic Reading by Third Grade: Our Shared Opportunity, Our Shared Responsibility. Mr. Sanchez’s keynote will provide a national context for the conversation about grade level reading proficiency.

Guest Blogger: Yuwiska Alcantara-Tagliati

I moved to the US from the Dominican Republic in 2010. At the time I didn’t speak, nor read English; furthermore, itYuwiska was very difficult the first 3 years to understand not only the language, but the system, such as school, transportation, the changes on the weather, doctor appointments, etc.

One day when searching for my English literacy, I went to the public library and they told me about the services that the Literacy Center of West Michigan offer to people who doesn’t speak English. At first I was reticent to believe that the services has no cost. And my surprise was even bigger when I started to receive the service and encounter that this services has an excellent quality.

 The Literacy Center's Eleventh Annual Wine & Words event will be hosted at 333 Fountain Street NE on Wednesday, November 8 from 6-9 pm. Purchase tickets online at www.literacycenterwm.org/wine-words

The lovely Italianate home, located at the corner of Fountain and Prospect in Grand Rapids' Heritage Hill district, House Photo 2was constructed in the 1876 by Norman D. Carpenter. Mr. Carpenter was a partner in Carpenter, Judd & Company, a wholesale and retail dealership specializing in hardware and stoves. He resided in the home until the 1890s when he sold it and moved to Los Angeles.

Guest Post by Mike Nassar, M.Ed.
Director, Community Literacy Initiative

The Literacy Center's Annual Community Literacy Summit, Reading by Third Grade: Our Shared Opportunity, Our Shared Responsibility, will be held on Thursday, January 25, 2018 from 7:30 am- 1:00 pm at Grand Valley State University's Eberhard Center.

There has been no shortage of debate about the State of Michigan’s recent law on third grade reading. Schools arechild reading currently working to get the word out to families about the law and its implications, while also preparing teachers for upcoming meetings with parents. Improving reading results for children in West Michigan is important to all of us.

This year’s Community Literacy Summit seeks to bring together community members to further discuss and understand the issues and conditions associated with a child reading proficiently by the end of third grade.

Do you have something to contribute to the conversation? Our deadline has been extended to October 30 for presentation proposals for our break-out sessions.

Alfonso GuerraIn our March 2015 e-newsletter, we introduced you to Alfonso Guerra, a native of Nicaragua, who came to the United States for better medical care, and took classes from the Literacy Center to improve his English. 

At that time he wrote: "English classes have already impacted me communicatively and comprehending better with my clients and the community. I am feeling more confident. My present and main goals now are to dominate English language, to socialize with the North American community, and looking for more customers. Finally I am happy living in U.S.A."

It was in those classes that Alfonso met Carolina Cnol, a Literacy Center learner who was an attorney and a congresswoman in her native Honduras. The two have dated for the last two years. But their story is bittersweet.

On September 8, Alfonso said goodbye to Carolina and flew from Grand Rapids to Nicaragua. Returning "home," helped by the kindness and generosity of friends and strangers, was his final wish as his prostate cancer advanced. Read more about the story, as told by his team at Spectrum Health Hospice.

Guest Post by Mike Nassar
Director, Community Literacy Initiative

The Literacy Center's Community Literacy Summit will be held on Thursday, Janunary 25, 2018 from 7:30 am- 1:00 pm at Grand Valley State University's Eberhard Center. 

As many of us have heard by now, third grade reading is the most important predictor of high school graduation and career success. According to The Campaign for Grade Level Reading, approximately 67% of children nationwide are not proficient readers by the end of third grade. It jumps to 80% for children from families with low incomes. Locally, half of all students in Kent County are not reading proficiently by third grade. For students of color, that number rises to 74%.

These statistics have very real and very significant consequences not only for each of these children, but also for ourParent and child reading community. If left unchecked, these low levels of proficiency will undermine efforts to end intergenerational poverty, close the achievement gap, and reduce high school dropout rates. Far fewer of the next generation will be prepared to participate in higher education and in our growing local economy.

We are pleased to announce the hire of Miguelina Quiñones as the new director of our Family Literacy Program Miguelina Quinones(FLP), a program that strengthens the connection between home and school by addressing the literacy needs of adults in children’s lives.

A native of the Dominican Republic, Miguelina has been a classroom teacher and school administer for 20 years. She earned her B.A. from Herbert H. Lehman College and M.A. from College of New Rochelle, and is certified in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL).

Q & A with Anna Linder, outgoing AmeriCorps Bilingual Learner Support Advocate. The Literacy Center is currently accepting applications for this AmeriCorps position for the 2017-18 program year. 

1. What first drew you to this AmeriCorps position at the Literacy Center?Anna Lindner

I was referred to AmeriCorps by my mentor at Calvin College, who knows about my passion for racial justice. I chose the Bilingual Learner Support Advocate position because I would be able to speak Spanish and interact with learners, continue my work with data, and be in an academic environment, which would utilize my strengths.

2. What is your favorite part about the position?

I enjoy the relationships/coordinating aspect of my position. I work with instructors to ensure that we have collected all the correct data by delegating and by visiting schools whenever necessary. Our team works together very well, and it’s been satisfying to see everything get done efficiently and effectively.

This post was written by Jamie Lesman, an AmeriCorps Family Literacy Tutor

Chandra came to Grand Rapids with her family in 2012 as a refugee. She was born in Bhutan and had lived in Nepal for many years chandra copybefore coming to West Michigan. I first met Chandra at a South Godwin Head Start open house and we began our language literacy journey together in September.

During our tutoring session, we talk, listen and exchange ideas about each other’s lives, which has a strong impact on both of us. We share motherhood together, experiences of living in other countries, and the ideas of empowering our daughters by showing them what it takes to be a strong and independent woman through literacy. Chandra also volunteers at a local international church to help fellow refugee women as a Nepali interpreter.

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