Library Literacy Tutor Uses NOW! Foundations™ to Change a Life
Diana Leon is a volunteer adult learning tutor for the Alachua County Public Library’s Adult Literacy program. All of the Alachua County Library tutors are trained in NOW! Foundations for Speech, Language, Reading, and Spelling®. Anyone interested in becoming an adult literacy tutor in Alachua County, FL should call Theresa Sterling, ACLD Literacy Coordinator, at 352-334-3929.
I began my search for volunteer opportunities at the library over a year ago because I was determined to give back to my community in a more meaningful way. The Literacy Coordinator, Theresa Sterling, at the Alachua County Public Library made a great case for literacy tutoring: you can take the skills you acquire anywhere, there is a high need for literacy volunteers, and you can give people hope. So, the library sponsored my training with Neuro-development of Words – NOW!® in a program called NOW! Foundations for Speech, Language, Reading, and Spelling®. I was intrigued by their research-based dynamic, multi sensory approach to reading. The logic behind the program is nuanced, yet simple: we need to fine tune our phonological awareness at understandable, concrete levels before we venture into the abstract abyss of English reading, spelling, and comprehension. As a literate person, you automatically make these multisensory connections–your mouth moves, and you produce the sounds you need to read or say words. Yet I was discovering new and exciting ways to understand written and spoken language. I was confident that the program could work.
Next I was paired with my learner, Abby*, who was just as eager to learn as I was to teach. She was pulled out of school during first grade and never acquired the skills you might need for basic reading and writing. She had some previous experience with adult learning centers to no avail. She had zero sound associations with letters and relied on rote memorization to read and spell with little success–“Rat. B-E-D.” But because of her willingness to try anything, I was given raw clay with which I could sculpt.
The first epiphany that Abby had with the NOW! Program was her mouth control. We used mouth pictures with names based on the action required to produce the specific sound to segment, read, and spell words. For example, /p/ and /b/ require you to close your lips and then pop them open to make the sounds. She was learning where to position her tongue, lips, and jaw to make the sounds she needed. She was discovering new words and sounds with a very concrete base so she can self-correct (e.g., do my mouth movements match the sounds I want to produce or the pictures I see).
This was a very important first step in the program.
As Abby learned more sounds and had a concrete understanding of her mouth movements, she gained tools to better understand English. She was also reinforcing the rudimentary steps to actually read and spell (e.g., sounding out words or segmenting, reading from left to right, understanding the way sounds and words can change, etc.). When we first started just short of a year ago, it was hard for her to discriminate sounds in words like “paw.” Today, she segments with relative ease using blocks (a more abstract version of the picture cards, but less abstract than letters), and we are working on perfecting her recognition of all the sounds in the English language and reading and spelling one-syllable words. She’s very pleased that she can now recognize and read words when she watches television or goes grocery shopping.
Not only has her progress been rewarding for me, but she confessed that this past year has been the happiest of her life. Her confidence and self-esteem are now abounding. Meeting with her for three hours every week is a great joy in my life. The library and NOW! are changing lives, and I’m grateful to be a part of it.