Mid-Valley Literacy Center helps adults learn


Mid-Valley Literacy Center helps adults learn

12:54 p.m. PDT April 12, 2016

Can you name three homophones?

How about “ate” and “eight,” “ant” and “aunt,” or “male” and “mail”?

Homophones are words that sound the same when pronounced, but have different spellings and different meanings.

These nuanced differences probably come naturally to those who were born and raised speaking English. But for those who learn English as a second language, understanding homophones and other parts of speech can be difficult.

Adults who are learning English as a second language — or third, fourth, sixth or 11th, for that matter — can work with tutors at the Mid-Valley Literacy Center in Salem to learn these things and more.

The Mid-Valley Literacy Center trains volunteer tutors to provide literacy-based classes. The center recently moved to the East Salem Community Center, 1850 45th St. NE.

The center can also help students obtain their GED, begin nursing courses, or take classes on business management.

Executive Director Vivian Ang said 187 students have completed their GED completions — all of whom either entered college or obtained employment, 88 adults have received U.S. citizenship, and 62 adults have become certified nursing assistants with employment since the center opened in 2009.

The adults who take these classes often work full-time and care for their families, but still dedicate time to the studies.

Cesar Ruiz is from Mexico. He is working to obtain citizenship in the United States as he works at Salem Hospital and takes classes at the center.

He is part of the upper-level intermediate English language class, taught by volunteer Donna Glaze.

In class last Thursday, Ruiz and two classmates, Luis Maravilla and Sohee Kim, worked with Glaze on homophones.

The three had to work on examples on the board and talk to Glaze about why each is a homophone.

Male, for example, is a man, the opposite of a female or woman. However, mail is a letter. The two words sound the same, but are different in other ways.

“They are just the most joyful class to teach, the most amazing students,” Glaze said. “It can be a real sacrifice to learn English.”

Glaze has been volunteering with the center for about seven years. Her students are eager to learn, and they are a tightly knit, highly motivated group, she said.

It is too dangerous for some of her students to go back to their home country, so they are doing everything they can to build a life here.

The students are making a lot of progress, Glaze said. Kim is now reading 300- to 400-word books, for example.

Another class Thursday was working on comparatives, words that describe differences in two or more things, as in, “That tree is taller than that car.”

The students learned how to conjugate different comparative words based on spelling. They paired up to look at pictures and compare them.

“We are breaking down English that might be easy for someone who has always spoken it,” said Brenda Lawrence, another volunteer tutor at the center. “It is more difficult when learning it as a new language.”

npate@StatesmanJournal.com, 503-399-6745, or follow her on Twitter@Nataliempate, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/nataliepatejournalist or on the Web at nataliepate.com

Literacy by the numbers

About 32 million adults in the U.S., or 14 percent of the population, cannot read, according to the U.S. Department of Education and the National Institute of Literacy.

Additionally, 21 percent of adults in the U.S. read below a fifth-grade level, and 19 percent of high school graduates cannot read.

About 10 percent of Oregon adults lack basic prose literacy skills, according to the government’s 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy.

Get involved

The Mid-Valley Literacy Center is hosting its second annual “Spotlight on Literacy” awards and benefit dinner.

The event is at 6 p.m. April 29 at the Kroc Center. It will feature a keynote address by former Oregon governor Barbara Roberts and awards presentation by former Chief Justice Paul De Muniz.

Tickets are $40 and can be purchased at http://www.midvalleyliteracycenter.org/.

For more information, call (503) 463-1488.

Published by Natalie Pate

Natalie Pate is a freelance journalist and author based in Salem, Oregon. She wrote about education for more than seven years at the Statesman Journal and now covers education and other topics throughout the Pacific Northwest. She is originally from Colorado and earned her B.A. in Politics and French from Willamette University.

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