By Lily Contorer
The Literacy Council of Buncombe County teaches adults and children basic reading, writing, math, and English language skills through individual and small group instruction by trained volunteers. Students gain self-confidence and develop self-sufficiency to transform their lives as individuals, parents, workers, and citizens. The Literacy Council, a non-profit organization accredited by ProLiteracy America and serving the community since 1987, provides highly individualized tutoring to fit the needs of over 300 students in three core programs – Adult Education, English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) and the Augustine Project. This profile of student, Timica Brooks, is the first in a series of inspiring stories about those whose lives The Literacy Council has improved.
“Lily, I can read a sentence!” Her dark eyes shining, a somewhat breathless Timica Brooks burst into my office to declare this news. Her tutor, understandably lagging behind by a few steps, poked her head in my open door and asked if I had a moment to listen to Timica read- she was so proud of herself. Smiling, and recovering from the explosion of energy that had suddenly pulled my eyes from my computer screen, I nodded encouragingly and waited for Timica to show me what she could do:
The- dog- had- a- dish- of- fish.
The- bug- is- in- the- pot.
After a whispered conversation with her tutor, presumably regarding the next word, Timica proclaimed:
Pat had a pig in the pit!
Timica couldn’t breathe, her tutor appeared to be shaking slightly and I had goosebumps up and down my arms. At forty years old, Timica had waited a long time to be able to show off her emerging reading skills.
In fact, just three months earlier, Timica had been unable to produce the sounds that consonants make. When asked to tell me the sounds she heard in the word “keep”, rather than saying /k/- /e/- /p/, Timica had meaningfully said, “keep out”.
How did Timica come to be an adult with such reading struggles and a student at the Literacy Council of Buncombe County?
When she was just fourteen years old, Timica became pregnant and dropped out of the ninth grade. She had been attending high school special education classes because of a learning disability. Although her teachers were nice to her, Timica says that she “had a hard time learning and felt down and out” when she was in her classes. Truthfully, at the time, she didn’t mind leaving school to raise her son.
Timica struggled to find a job not only because she was a pregnant fourteen-year-old who hadn’t finished high school but also because she couldn’t read or write well enough to fill out job applications.
Luckily, she and her baby had a place to live with family. Eventually, Timica had another child; a girl this time. Timica also became addicted to crack cocaine.
As part of her addiction recovery, Timica admitted that she couldn’t read and was fortunate enough to have a case worker who located the Literacy Council of Buncombe County and set up an appointment for Timica.
The Literacy Council of Buncombe County, a non-profit organization, provides reading, writing, spelling and English-language tutoring at no cost to adults, teens and children through three core programs: Adult Education, English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) and the Augustine Project.
After completing an intake assessment, Timica was matched with a trained tutor, Jennifer Hart Love. The pair works together for two hours every week. Both Timica and Jennifer have committed to working together for at least nine months. Together, they work towards achieving Timica’s goals. She wants to cook from a recipe, obtain her GED, read a bus schedule and eventually finish two novels that her daughter gave her as a gift. Timica says, “I love my tutor! I love her! I love Jennifer. She got a lot of patience. I love the fact that she’s a smart lady and takes her time with me and don’t get frustrated with me.”
The affection is mutual. Jennifer says, “I look forward to the days I work with Timica. She is excited about the process of learning. She wants more. She doesn’t expect you to open her head and dump the facts in – she really takes a part in her learning.”
To people who are struggling with reading, Timica says, “You can do anything you put your mind to doing it.” To those who want to become a tutor, Timica says, “There’s a lot of people out there who need your help.”
To learn more about becoming a student or a volunteer tutor with the Literacy Council of Buncombe County, please visit www.litcouncil.com or email Lily Contorer at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also call Lily at 828-254-3442 x202 to learn more.