BANGOR, Maine — According to research from the nonprofit Proliteracy, more than 43 million Americans can't read, write, or do math above a third-grade level. But there are a number of programs out there designed to help adults learn basic reading, writing, and math skills.
Literacy Volunteers of Bangor has been helping adults for more than 50 years, and now it needs more volunteer tutors. It's a free program that helps adults work on basic English skills or learn English as another language.
Organizers said the number of students in the program has doubled since before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Volunteers go through four training sessions at the Brewer Community Center before they can be paired up with a student and start teaching. They're asked to be available to tutor for a couple of hours each week.
The volunteer tutors learn to help adults with reading comprehension, writing, spelling, and English-speaking skills.
Nancy Connor has worked for Literacy Volunteers of Maine for 30 years.
"What's nice is you customize what you're doing with the student, so the tutors have a lot of flexibility here, where they're beginning to look at: What are your goals? Is your goal that you want to get your driver's license? Let's sort of piece that out as to how we're going to get you there," Connor said. "For somebody, that might take a short period of time. But for somebody else, going through that driver's manual could be pretty daunting and might take quite a while."
Connor said she has trained hundreds of community volunteers to be part of this program.
"We have such a variety of students and such a variety of languages; such a variety of proficiency levels that there's a lot to cover," she explained. "So we try to just lay a foundation looking at the four basic language areas: listening, speaking, reading, and writing, giving the tutors a foundation for how they begin to work in any of those areas."
Literacy Volunteers of Bangor has helped more than 170 adults in the last year.
The next training session begins on Sept. 15. If you'd like to learn more about becoming a volunteer tutor or signing up as a student, click here.