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An Open Book

Literacy Link-Leamos offers free literacy and employment-related services, a New Year reading campaign, and volunteer opportunities


"Leamos! Let's Read!"

With that enthusiastic note of encouragement, Literacy Link-Leamos of Silver City sets about getting youngsters off on the right foot, improving the English-language skills of young and old, and even strengthening job-seekers' work skills and, hence, their chances at employment.

"We want people to know we're here to help," says Michelle Detterick, Silver City's Literacy Link-Leamos program coordinator. Detterick started out as a volunteer with the organization and has been program director for the past four years.

January is a big month for the non-profit group, as it solicits new reading volunteers, resumes Conversational English classes and joins with literacy organizations across the state to promote the "Read! Start the Year Right!" reading campaign. That effort kicks off locally with an event at the Silver City Food Basket on Hudson Street (Hwy. 90) on Jan. 3. Detterick says the public is invited to stop by, choose a free book and register for a door prize, a $50 savings bond donated by Western Bank in Silver City.

To drum up interest in the New Year reading campaign, and to draw attention to Literacy Link-Leamos' many free programs, supporters of the group are sporting bright-yellow lapel pins emblazoned with the "Read!" slogan.

Local youth certainly are equipped to start the new year out right. In December, Literacy Link-Leamos distributed hundreds of free books to area WIC (Women Infants and Children program) families. A total of 200 bags, each containing three age-appropriate books, were distributed, purchased through the National Book Bank thanks to a grant from the Target Foundation.

The group also is putting out the call in January for new reading tutor volunteers. Literacy Link-Leamos currently has 43 active tutors who give an hour of their time once a week to individuals of all ages. Another 10 volunteers go out to the local Headstart programs, reading to classrooms of very young children.

Bookmark this!

Month of January
Sign up to be trained as a literacy volunteer in March or April.

Jan. 3, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
"Read! Start the Year Right!" reading campaign kick-off event at the Silver City Food Basket on Hudson Street (Hwy. 90).

Jan. 8, 6 p.m., and Jan. 11, 9:30 a.m.
Enseñamos Ingles: "We speak English" conversational classes resume. Open registration, free.

Jan. 19, time TBA
Current and potential tutors' in-service session.

Feb. 10, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
"Love Your Library" event. Library open 9 a.m.-1 p.m.

To link up with Literacy Link-Leamos:
388-0892, literacylinkleamos@yahoo.com, www.gilarangers.com/leamos.htm.

The organization is housed in the Silver City Public Library at 515 W. College Ave.

Detterick says that 25 percent of those who avail themselves of the organization's services–called "learners"–are children, with the remaining 75 percent being adults looking to improve their reading skills. Of the children, most are in elementary grades, with just a handful in the 16-to-18-year-old bracket. The majority of the adults are in their 30s, she says, adding that their most senior participant last year was in his 70s.

Literacy Link-Leamos volunteer tutors helped more than 100 people in 2005, Detterick says, adding that the "learners" come for many different reasons.

"Some want to be able to read the newspaper. Some come because they want to be able to read the Bible," she says. The program has a variety of materials available to meet the specific needs and goals of its wide range of students, she says, gesturing to a shelf loaded with various magazines, pop-up and picture books for the very young, and then storybooks and novels.

Detterick pulls a novel from the shelf. "They (pre-teens and teens) call these 'chapter books,'" she says with a warm smile. "It's because it's the first time they are reading something with chapters, not just a child's storybook."

Literacy Link-Leamos holds tutor trainings annually to prepare new volunteers for their role. The next tutor training session will be held in March or April, Detterick says, but because the trainer comes from out of the area, she is working to corral a group of potential tutors now. An in-service session for all the program's current tutors, along with individuals interested in becoming tutors, will be held Jan. 19.

"We match up the tutors with learners, based on a number of factors–gender preference, subject matter, goals and availability," Detterick says. "Not all learners are beginners, either. So there are many levels at which tutors can help."

Detterick says all that's required to become a Literacy Link tutor are reading skills, a love of reading and the desire to help others. The 14-hour training–with sessions on How to Tutor, Reading and Writing Skills and How To Motivate With Materials–gives volunteers all the knowledge they need to do the job.


The Workplace Readiness Initiative is a growing program under the Literacy Link-Leamos umbrella of services. The program offers private or classroom training to employers and/or employees, with tutoring in math, computer basics, customer service, phone etiquette, typing, English-speaking and writing skills, as well as GED test preparation.

As an example of the program in action, Detterick says a local employer recently approached her and said the company was interested in hiring a candidate, but that the applicant's typing skills were not up to the level required for the job. Literacy Link-Leamos stepped in and gave the job-seeker typing training on one of the program's laptops. End result: employment success.

Literacy Link-Leamos also offers ongoing Conversational English classes in a small, informal discussion group format. Monday evening classes, offered at 6 p.m., resume Jan. 8, and the Thursday morning sessions, 9:30 a.m., pick up Jan. 11. Registration is open and individuals are invited to join the classes at any time.

All Literacy Link-Leamos activities are offered at the Silver City Public Library. The organization has its own office in the library and a separate small room, dedicated as the Rotary Literacy Center last March, where tutors meet with their learners. A donation from the local Rotary Club, coupled with a PNM grant, enabled the literacy group to buy computers and software, as well as develop a previously underused portion of the library into functional study corrals.

Thankful for the library's support and recognizing their dovetailed mission, Literacy Link-Leamos will again participate in the annual "Love Your Library" event on Feb. 10. The goal, Detterick says, is to bring in people who don't usually frequent the library. This year's event will again have free food, entertainment and door prizes, and people will get assistance in applying for library cards. Detterick says the event last year drew more than 220 people.

"It's a great introduction," Detterick says. "It's just great to see the little ones get so excited about their library, and about reading. And that's just so important."

–Donna Clayton Lawder


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