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Branch Library Expanding Literacy Programs

Leon County

The dawn of the New Year means a new and larger role for one of Leon County's branch libraries. The Family Literacy program at the Southside's B.L. Perry Library is growing.

Alden Fields is the library's coordinator for the Family Literacy Program.

"This is our classroom space at the Dr. B.L. Perry, Jr. Branch Library and that's where our family literacy program is headquartered and we've always called it the 'Family Learning Center',” Fields explained. “But I guess we're trying to get the word out about that location there and what we can offer folks."

Fields said among those offerings is an effort to help kids keep up with their class work.

"One of the more popular aspects of our Family Literacy programming has been what we call our Homework Helpers Program, which is K-12 after school tutoring. We work with volunteers just like we do with our adult programs. A lot of those volunteers come from the universities in town."

Those volunteers include people like Hannah Williams, a student at Florida A&M University.

"As a member of the National Council of Negro Women, I'm over the community service that we do in our section,” Williams said. “And we have a lot of focuses as we try to reach out to the campus and the Tallahassee area, but one of those is education, so we're happy to help the kids."

Williams also sits on the board of the Literacy Volunteers of Leon County. That group's Executive Director Rhonda Cooper, said the program's expansion means more help is needed.

"We've clearly established that there's a need for the Homework Helper program, so we're very excited that we're going to be able to address that demand for tutors and we're hopeful that other agencies, organizations, sororities and fraternities possibly; groups in some of the high schools might be interested in committing to a month when they'll come in as a group on those Tuesdays and Thursdays and work in that group setting, which means those students aren't necessarily getting a one-on-one tutor, but at least there's someone there who can give them a little help.”

But for some kids, Cooper said more intensive help is needed and that's why the overall program is being expanded to accommodate that on a much larger scale.

"For a lot of our clients, a group situation is just moving too quickly. (They) can't keep up, or they just don't have the reading skills or the familiarity with the kind of equipment they're using. So Alden's program is able to provide that one-to-one, very client-centered, individualized focus on what does that client need and what can we provide for them, so we're very excited about that."

Volunteers like Hannah Williams are already out beating the bushes for more tutors.

"Earlier this semester we got a chance to have an event with the FSU section of NCNW so hopefully they'll be interested in it as well," she said.

Program Coordinator Alden Fields sees that volunteer recruitment extending well beyond the local academic community as the Literacy Center becomes even more of a one-stop shop.

"We're trying to become more of a catch-all to get the entire family - the individual adult and individual child - covered as far as their academic support and professional support goes, just to put out there that we are trying to fill these little vacuums that we see and when we have volunteers who can come to us and say, 'I have this skill; do you think you could find a way to use it and help people?'"

Later this month, Literacy Volunteers of Leon County will reach out even further with a performance of the "Readers Theatre", with some local elected officials as cast members.

Follow @flanigan_tom

Tom Flanigan has been with WFSU News since 2006, focusing on covering local personalities, issues, and organizations. He began his broadcast career more than 30 years before that and covered news for several radio stations in Florida, Texas, and his home state of Maryland.

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