STILLWATER, Okla. —
Terrifying, unnerving, shocking ... explaining the concept of “frightening” to English language learners requires some tricky teaching methods.
“Just scaring them with getting real quiet then screaming ‘Boo’ got the meaning of the word across,” Stillwater Literacy Council tutor Ron Avants said. “The students almost came out of their chairs but a demonstration worked better than a verbal explanation. Being silly often helps to get across concepts that are difficult to understand when you are not familiar with the English language. I just have a heart to help and I have to be creative sometimes with my lessons.”
Avants was recognized as a valued volunteer by the Stillwater Literacy Council advisory board Monday at the Stillwater Public Library. Logging almost 200 hours of volunteer teaching last month, he is an exceptional community contributor, said Arlene Devers, executive director of the Stillwater Literacy Council.
“We are delighted to honor Ron for our fall semester award,” Devers said. “Each semester, we honor one of our tutors with Elizabeth Eidson recognized for last spring. Our volunteers are critical with Stillwater having an international community trying to improve their communication skills and there are many citizens who do not read at a functional level.”
The National Institute for Literacy estimates American businesses lose more than $60 billion because employees lack basic reading and writing skills. More than 400,000 Oklahoma adults do not have basic reading skills, according to the Oklahoma Department of Libraries. That’s one of every five adults who face significant obstacles in their daily lives due to low reading abilities. Children’s literacy levels are strongly linked to the educational level of their parents, especially their mothers, Devers said.
The Stillwater Literacy Council is a nonprofit United Way agency providing free tutoring services to English-speaking adults in reading, writing and math. Spouses of Oklahoma State University students are also taught spoken English. Tutors provide classes and one-on-one instruction to clients. Cultural experiences such as dining out together to practice English slang phrases and attending Pawnee Bill’s Wild West Show are also part of the experiences offered. Survival English classes address every day tasks such as going to the grocery store.
“We have a wide variety of classes and tutor schedules to meet individual students’ needs. There are many people needing assistance with reading skills,” Devers said. “We always need volunteers. Tutors make a positive difference addressing conversation, as well as life skills, family, health and work place literacy issues. Tutor certification involves six hours of core training with three hours of follow-up training from curriculum provided by the Oklahoma Department of Libraries.”
If you are interested in volunteering or for confidential free tutoring in basic literacy and English as a second language, call the council at 372-2144 or email stillwaterliteracy firstname.lastname@example.org.