Nov. 14 to be Twin Lakes Literacy Council Day
Approximately four years ago, Mandy Sutton of Salesville noticed her then 13-year-old son, Lucas, was having difficulty reading, spelling and pronouncing words.
She couldn’t help but notice him struggling, because she was homeschooling him.
As a member of the HomeStyle Christian Education homeschooling cooperative, Mandy had resources to make some tweaks to Lucas’ reading curriculum, but she didn’t see much improvement. Around that time, she heard about the Twin Lakes Literacy Council (TLLC) and decided to ask for help.
“I was having problems reading and spelling, which affected my language arts, literature,” Lucas said. “It bled into my other courses too.”
When it came time to pair Lucas up with tutor at TLLC, Anna Marie Eitenmiller of Mountain Home was selected. She lives on AR Highway 5 South, on the way to Salesville.
“There was no sense in all of us coming to the office in Mountain Home, so we met at Benny’s Country Store,” Eitenmiller said.
Owner Drew Long said he didn’t mind the tutoring sessions taking place at his business, as long as his two-booth operation wasn’t too busy.
So, for the last four years, Lucas, Mandy and Eitenmiller met twice a week, one hour each session, to work on Lucas’ skills.
Eitenmiller has been with TLLC for at least seven years. She has previously literacy experience from her days living in rural, Northern Wisconsin. She worked in audiology, teaching the deaf and hard of hearing.
But with the literacy and mathematics curriculums used by TLLC, she said tutors don’t have to have any sort of teaching background.
She said the lessons for young people and adults are laid out well and that the work is rewarding.
“You just have to stay a couple of pages ahead of the students,” Eitenmiller said with a laugh.
Heather Powell, Director of the Twin Lakes Literacy Council, said TLLC’s younger students use the Barton Reading System, a program that was adopted more than 10 years ago by the Mountain Home School District. It’s a national program designed to be taught by parents who have no teaching experience.
“It’s designed for students with autism, but we use it for others because all of the fundamentals are there,” she said.
Lucas is one of fewer than 1,500 students who have completed all 10 levels of the Barton system. Eitenmiller said that when most young people hit the seventh and eighth levels, they usually feel like they have a good grasp on the reading fundamentals, and usually quit.
By levels nine and 10, students review words that come from Spanish, French, Latin and Greek origin. They learn the importance of breaking words down into prefixes like “anti” meaning “against,” or suffixes like “less” meaning “without.”
The Laubach Method, like Barton, was designed in the 1930s. The programs evolved from the studies of Samuel Torrey Orton and Anna Gillingham. Even with today’s computer technological advances, the older methods are often the best.
“There’s nothing like an older person saying, ‘I read my first three-syllable word,’ ” Eitenmiller said.
Mandy said Barton and Eitenmiller have done wonders for Lucas’ skills and confidence.
“I could definitely see a change in his confidence,” she said. “Now he’s decided he’s going to work on his Eagle Scout badge.”
“It’s been good, definitely,” Lucas said. “It’s gotten easier for sure.”
“It’s helped with my pronunciation of words, I know how to sound them out. It’s given me confidence,” he added.
Eitenmiller said she was touched to hear Lucas say that he before he had gotten help, he would never have considered going to college. Now, he wants to go.
As part of his homeschooling coursework, Lucas is taking a Shakespeare course and will be reading such works as “Julius Cesar” and “The Merchant of Venice.” He is also taking two courses at Norfork High School, including environmental science which he thinks he’d like to study in college. He currently has an A in the class.
Lucas has been homeschooled since pre-Kindergarten and though Mandy will be a little sad, he will be spend his senior year at Norfork High School and will graduate with the class of 2021.
Eitenmiller and Powell say it’s unfortunate that people still equate people with learning deficiencies, such as dyslexia and attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD), with having low intelligence. Famous dyslexics include Steven Spielberg, Keanu Reeves and Tim Tebow. Those diagnosed with ADHD include Michael Phelps, Justin Timberlake and Simone Biles.
Powell said TLLC has been in operation for more than 30 years through the generous donations of from the Twin Lakes Area community, grant money for children programs and state funds for the adult programs. They have helped hundreds of residents in that time.
Statistically, roughly 11 percent of Baxter County residents read below a fifth-grade level. Powell said that’s about 4,500 people who haven’t earned their high school equivalence.
Powell said it takes approximately 260 related skills to allow someone to read and “if you’re missing any of those components, you miss out.”
Right now, TLLC has approximately 78 volunteers, the majority of whom are tutors. The tutors are currently working with 42 children and 71 adults. Powell said there are currently 15 adults on a waiting list.
“So we can always use more tutors,” she said.
Powell said TLLC and their tutors try to be as flexible as possible with their students. Students under 12 years old can come to the TLLC offices at 1318 Bradley Drive, Suite 14, or at their school. Students older than 12 can meet in public places such as the Mountain Home, Bull Shoals or Oakland libraries.
In order to become a tutor, Powell said applicants need to sit through 12 hours of training. The Laubach adult literacy method has been taught in more than 100 countries to help native speakers and in more than 200 countries to teach non-English speakers how to speak English.
“We have a larger international population here that people don’t realize,” Powell said.
Children and adults can get assistance in literacy, mathematics for standardized tests such as the Career Readiness Test and the Arkansas driver’s test, along with basic computer courses.
With technology, Powell said she’s seen a lot of seniors get computers to keep in touch with their grandchildren in different states, but often don’t have the skills to get up and running on them.
While TLLC does not prepare students for the General Educational Development (GED) — that is a program offered at Arkansas State University-Mountain Home — Powell said they will take on students who need some help before they start the GED classwork.
At their next meeting, the Baxter County Quorum Court will designate Thursday, Nov. 14 as Twin Lakes Literacy Council Day.
The Knights of Columbus of St. Peter the Fisherman Church will host a “Paul Bunyan Breakfast” on Saturday from 7:30-10:30 a.m. at the Parish Life Center. Tickets are $3 for 12 and under, $6.50 for 13 and up. Proceeds will benefit Twin Lake Literacy Council.
In the future, Powell hopes they can expand their service area to include Yellville and Calico Rock, which will require more donations and tutors.
Want to help?
For more information about tutoring or becoming a tutor at the Twin Lakes Literacy Council, visit their website at www.twinlakesliteracycouncil.org, their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/Twin-Lakes-Literacy-Council-562319980452273/ or call 870-425-7323.
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