Literacy Connection

Student Success Stories

Post date: Thursday, July 25, 2013 - 5:19pm

Enjoy these stories submitted by two of our tutors:

From one-on-one tutor Margaret Stuhr…In the last three-six months, my student has begun using email to communicate with me, friends and family; playing phonics/spelling games on an ipad; writing notes on a Facebook page; and working to master American coin and feel confident about making change. He has definitely begun seeing himself as a reader and a writer—frequently checking out books from the library, discussing stories he reads with his wife, and working to produce a multiple-paragraph narrative for Collections. He has just begun a new job which requires him to do some writing, so he is eager to continue to develop his ability to spell and punctuate simple sentences correctly.               

From classroom tutor Kelley Dickson…My student participated in an ESL Families Learning Together class. (Note: to learn more about Families Learning Together, click here.) She came to the class knowing no English, and when we began working together, she was very reluctant to speak any English. We worked on basic skills and words, and she learned to say her name, address, phone number, days of the week, months, upcoming holidays, names for various relatives, colors and more. She learned to fill out simple forms. She went from a woman who was terrified to speak English to someone who could communicate basic information.

Watch for additional student success stories!

Family Literacy Scholarship Winner

Post date: Thursday, July 11, 2013 - 5:10pm

Congratulations to Erik Carey, winner of the annual Carol Morris Family Literacy Scholarship! The $1000 scholarship is awarded to an adult learner in the Families Learning Together program and is announced during the GED graduation ceremony at College of Lake County. The scholarship covers tuition and other school-related expenses to attend CLC.

Families Learning Together offers adults the opportunity to learn while becoming their children’s first teacher:

  • Three different types of classes are offered for adult learners: literacy level classes help parents improve their reading, writing and math; ESL family literacy classes help parents learn to speak and read in English; and GED level family literacy classes prepare parents to earn their GED.
  • While parents attend class, their children, ages 0-6 years, learn through stories, music and activities in the classroom next door.
  • Classes meet at Waukegan Public Library, Zion-Benton Public Library, North Chicago Public Library and Round Lake Area Public Library.
  • All of the programs include five family literacy components: adult education, library services/computers, parenting, children’s education, and Parents and Child Together (PACT).
  • The classes are presented by Waukegan Public Library in partnership with the College of Lake County and Literacy Volunteers of Lake County.

Photo of Erik Carey, Carol Morris Family Literacy Scholarship winnerErik Carey started attending the classes with his nine-month-old son Ezra at Zion-Benton Public Library in January. Through the classes, Carey wanted to learn how to teach his son to read and be successful in school, and Erik also wanted to obtain his GED. “I had started classes several times, but never finished the process,” said Carey. “It was this last December that my father-in-law told me that the Zion Library was holding GED classes, hosted by the Family Literacy program. With their help, I have finally finished! Now the future does not seem so bleak and I feel that I can take on the world. However, it does not stop there. I want to be a good example to my son and go to college.”

The next Families Learning Together session begins in August. If you know or are tutoring a student with young children, let us know if you’d like more information about this terrific program! Please contact Josh Anderson, janderson [at] waukeganpl [dot] info or Gale Graves, Family Literacy Coordinator, ggraves [at] waukeganpl [dot] info, 847-623-2041 x223.


Photo courtesy of College of Lake County

Independence Day Activities

Post date: Thursday, June 20, 2013 - 1:07pm

Are you looking for lesson ideas to highlight the upcoming Independence Day holiday?  Check out these ready-made lessons from ProLiteracy.


ProLiteracy advocates for Adult Literacy around the country and around the world.  Our programs benefit greatly from a wealth of resources they provide and also use many of the instructional materials from their publishing arm, New Readers Press.

-Josh Anderson, Waukegan Public Library, Literacy Coordinator

Is Your Student a Dyslexic Reader?

Post date: Wednesday, June 19, 2013 - 8:47am

Abigail Marshall, a founding member of the Davis Dyslexia Association International, lists the following problems that a dyslexic person might have. She cautions, however, that there is no single pattern of difficulty that affects all dyslexic persons.

She might see some letters as backwards or upside down.

He might see text appearing to jump around on a page.

She might not be able to tell the difference between letters that look similar in shape such as o,e,c.

He might not be able to tell the difference between letters that have similar shape but different orientation, such as b and p, d and q.

The letters might look all jumbled up and out of order.

The letters and words might look all bunched together.

The letters of some words might appear completely backwards, such as the word was looking like saw.

The letters and words might look okay, but the dyslexic person might get a severe headache or feel sick to her stomach every time she tries to read.   

He might see the letters okay, but not be able to sound out words—that is, not  able to connect the letters to the sounds they make and understand them.

She might be able to connect the letters and sound out words, but not recognize words she has seen before, no matter how many times she has seen them—each time she would have to start fresh.

He might be able to read the words okay but not be able to make sense of or remember what he reads, so that he finds herself coming back to read the same passage over and over again.        

It is important to understand that when a dyslexic person sees letters or words reversed or mixed up, there is usually nothing wrong with her eyes. The problem is in the way the mind interprets what the eyes see—like an optical illusion, except this mismatch between what illusion and reality happens with ordinary print on a page.

Marshall, Abigail.  Understanding and Recognizing Dyslexia.  Davis Dyslexia Association International.  01 August 2012. 13 June 2013.


Have you ever asked yourself why your student is having so much trouble reading the text on a given page?  You’ve worked on letter names and sounds, practiced the 100 most frequently used words, worked with vowel sounds and blends, etc.  But, given a page to read, things get all mixed up.  What should you do next?  It might be that your student is dyslexic.             

How do we as tutors help those who have been diagnosed as dyslexic?  Let me share what I have done with my student whom I will call “Joan.” Joan is in her mid-thirties and works daily.  Her job requires her to know specific words which we have practiced often. She knows these few words quite well. Joan can read words from a list or from cards. She can read frequently-used phrases from cards.  Her problem comes when we read books or articles.

Because she is an older student, she knows when something doesn’t make sense and this is an advantage. We’ve experimented with a number of techniques. We have used larger print books and articles. We always use a card to mark our place, and this helps her eyes not skip around or jump to the other text on the page.  A red colored piece of cellophane, an overlay, helps to make the black letters more predominant. We read together; I read a line or two and she reads the same lines, and then she reads the lines by herself. When she gets tired I can hear more mistakes, so I read for a while. Joan is especially fond of history and biography books, and it helps her keep her attention level up when she reads these books that interests her.

Do you work with a student who is dyslexic, and what techniques would you like to share? Please email Josh, janderson [at] waukeganpl [dot] info and add to this discussion!

Contributed by tutor Ruth Woodruff


Summer Reading

Post date: Wednesday, June 5, 2013 - 9:10am

     Read for the Gold at Waukegan Public Library!

The 2013 Summer Reading Club runs June 8 to July 28 for participants birth to 12th grade to read for fun and earn prizes as they complete their reading goals. Prizes include t-shirts, coupons from local businesses, iTunes gift cards, an eReader and much more!

The library will celebrate the summer program with games, activities, free henna tattoos and a petting zoo on Saturday, June 8 from 1 pm to 2:30 pm.

Information about the 2013 Summer Reading Club is available by calling the Children’s Department at 847-623-2041, ext. 280. Participants can join the reading club at any time between June 8 and July 28 to receive a prize.

Summer Reading programs begin at many area libraries this week, and they offer a terrific opportunity for your students and their families:

  • Summer Reading programs are free and fun! Libraries offer simple sign-ups for children and teens to read and win prizes.  Often there are activities and events that follow the library’s summer theme, making the library a community center for families. In addition to Summer Reading programs, many libraries offer free museum passes to families during the summer.
  • Summer Reading programs help avoid the “summer slide.” A number of studies show that children of all income levels learn at similar rates during the school year, but, speaking generally, children from lower income level homes do not make the same learning gains as middle income level children during the summer. These children enter the next school year less prepared. You can see the impact of this effect in this interesting video.
  • Summer Reading programs help adult learners build library skills. Checking out books, audio books and DVD’s can help adult students feel comfortable using library services and see the library as a learning resource for themselves and their families. Many libraries offer a Summer Reading program for adults too—with a chance to win prizes!

Encourage your student to discover the Summer Reading program at their library! Suggest their children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews participate. If you tutor at a library, consider using some of your tutoring session to introduce your student to the youth and/or adult librarians to sign up.  After all, someone will be winning those reading prizes…why not your student or their family members!


GED Pep Talks

Post date: Thursday, May 30, 2013 - 8:25am

Are you tutoring a student who is working toward completing the GED this year? Maybe your student needs a pep talk! This site offers celebrity pep talks about the value of achieving the GED, and the talks range from Level 1 “Gentle” to Level 5 “Convincing” to Level 12 “Extreme”.  Use the slider at the bottom of the web site screen to select a talk that’s milder or stronger. My favorite is Christopher Lloyd’s “Eccentric” pep talk (Level 8). Which pep talk would your student enjoy?


Enjoy tutoring? Tell a friend!

Post date: Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - 12:04pm

Working with the volunteer tutors in our program—seeing the effort, hearing the stories, and learning from the experiences—is inspiring! The next tutor training session is in June; please feel free to recommend this volunteer opportunity to your friends, family members and past students.  Here are the dates for the summer training session:


Tuesday, May 28, 3:30 to 5:00pm, Waukegan Public Library

Tutor Training: 

Tuesday, June 11, 12:30-4:30pm, Waukegan Public Library

Wednesday, June 12, 12:30-4:30pm, Waukegan Public Library

Thursday, June 13, 12:30-4:30pm, Waukegan Public Library

The next tutor training session will take place this fall. Questions? Please contact Laura Sherwood, 847-543-2327, lsherwood [at] clcillinois [dot] edu or Josh Anderson, 847-623-2041 x225, janderson [at] waukeganpl [dot] info.

And, please welcome the tutors who completed their training last October! You may have had a chance to meet and work with tutors from this group, who are volunteering in a variety of ways… assisting in classrooms, tutoring one-on-one, helping in the drop-in lab, volunteering at partner sites and/or leading a small group:

Photo of Tutor Training Class, October 2012

Back Row: Nejeri Reynolds, Ariel Dew, Monyca Fisher, Adrienne Fisher, Marlene Overton, Sharon Mikula, Heidi Cook, Elaina Bell, Eddie Williams

Front Row: John Lussem, Laura Sherwood, Bob Gorman, Mary Pat Robin, Carlos Vasquez, Josh Anderson

Tutor-to-Tutor: Making sight words interesting

Post date: Tuesday, May 14, 2013 - 9:07am

The, of, and, a, to!

Those words don’t exactly stir the heart.  One of the first steps for a beginning reader on the path to coping better at work, reading their mail and supporting their kids in school is putting some time and effort into recognizing the most common words on sight.  Often time spent drilling these words can feel like a chore.

One of our tutors, Margaret Stuhr, was working on the Fry List of most common sight words with her beginning reading student and came up with a creative way to make practicing these words more interesting than just flipping through flashcards.  She created sentences and stories built mainly out of the Fry words. 

For example, the following sentence comes from the group of sentences about the first 50 words:

What is your name?

The first three words are bold because they are in the first 50 words of the Fry List.  “Name” is also on the Fry List, in the 2nd hundred words, so it’s a good word to be practicing.  It’s not bolded here, because this group of sentences is meant to focus on the first 50 words. 

Click here to try these materials out with your learners.  There are sets of sentences for the first 50 words and the first 100 words as well as two stories for the first 100 words, “To Write or not to Write” and “Water, Water, Water”.

This is the first post in what we hope will be an ongoing series where tutors share about their tutoring experiences, Tutor-to-Tutor. Thanks to Margaret for letting us share her experience with sight words today. You might want to share about successes or struggles you had tutoring, materials that you really like or tricks and techniques that work for you.

To share your tutoring experiences with other tutors, please E-mail a draft of what you’d like to share to Josh Anderson (janderson [at] waukeganpl [dot] info), Janet Wigodner (jwigodner [at] waukeganpl [dot] info) or Laura Sherwood (lsherwood [at] clcillinois [dot] edu). We want the blog to be a venue for sharing, feedback and collaboration amongst tutors.

Collections 2013

Post date: Tuesday, May 7, 2013 - 5:50am

Words, words, words. There were many words spoken on the night of April 30, but, when those words come from the heart, the soul, from the very depth of the writer they take on emotion, determination, healing and become very powerful. Those of us who attended the celebration of the publication of Collections 2013 heard from a mother who recognized that the gift from God of her son was only a gift for a short while. Her struggle to accept this knowledge was shared with us through words, powerful for us to hear, healing for her to express.

Another gentleman expressed the nervousness he felt when he had to read in class. We could all identify in one way or another with that kind of apprehension. It has happened to all of us.

Can you imagine the courage it took for a young lady who is barely out of high school to stand before the group and read her life story? She told how she was afraid to ask for help and when she did she felt that the teacher just couldn’t or didn’t know how to help her so she stopped asking. When she graduated her confidence level was rock bottom. She has never laid eyes on her diploma because she felt her skills were too low and she wouldn’t amount to anything. She did get help from the literacy program, and she is gaining strength in her math and reading skills. She says, “There will be a day when her light will consume the darkness completely….for now, this story is incomplete.”

Contributed by Ruth Woodruff


Adult Learners Get Published

Post date: Wednesday, April 24, 2013 - 5:47am

Each Spring, Lake County’s adult learners become published authors in an anthology titled Collections, thanks to the Literacy Volunteers of Lake County. Adult learners work with their tutors and instructors to submit their written work for the book. Collections offers a terrific opportunity for students to celebrate their writing achievements and share their stories.

This year’s Collections book release party will be held on Tuesday, April 30, from 6:30 to 8:00 pm, in the Ray Bradbury Room of the Waukegan Public Library. Students will be presented with a copy of the anthology and have a chance to read their work for their friends, family, teachers and tutors. The written pieces are fun, heartwarming and insightful. Please join us for this celebration!