Sept. 19, 2006
By Elizabeth Gray
If you are reading this article, you were fortunate enough to have someone teach you to read. But for those who did not have that opportunity or would just like to improve their skills, the Edward Stevens Center for the Study and Development of Literacy and Language is here to help.
The Literacy Center celebrated its sixth annual kickoff Friday in a daylong professional development seminar titled "Learning Together: A Literacy Community." The event brought about 200 participants, including educators and college students, as well as the coordinators and volunteers of Literacy Center programs.
In 1998, the Ohio University Board of Trustees approved the creation of a literacy center housed in the College of Education. Guided by a comprehensive definition of literacy, the center has grown to include several programs that serve lifelong learners of all ages. The Central/Southeast Adult Basic and Literacy Education (ABLE) Resource Center provides educators throughout the 29 counties of Appalachian Ohio with the latest research, curriculum materials and networking opportunities so they can empower adult students to improve their literacy skills.
One student doing exactly that is Marvin Nichols, who works in the custodial services department at Ohio University and currently lives in Glouster. Nichols spent 11 years "shooting coal" for Peabody Coal like his father and grandfather before him, but after the mine closed, he had to find another job. Nichols came to Ohio University and has been employed here for the past 19 years.
Marvin wants to improve his literacy skills in order to pass a written exam that would allow him to move to Ohio University's Grounds Department. With this goal in mind, Nichols approached Sharon Reynolds, curriculum and training specialist for ABLE.
"I have been working with Sharon for a year and a half now," explained Nichols. "She takes time to explain everything to me."
In addition to the ABLE program, the center also includes AppalCORPS, an AmeriCorps program in which tutors work with children in Athens, Belmont, Monroe and Scioto counties while building stronger communities through the coordination of service projects. Appalachia Reads, a program of the Scripps College of Communication, is a collaborative that works to improve literacy in the region. The America Reads program provides children in kindergarten through sixth grade with OHIO student tutors to improve reading skills.
Nichols is the first student in the center's newest program, which provides peer-to-peer literacy tutoring to adults on campus and in the Athens community. "I can really see the change in Marvin from when he first came to me," remarked Reynolds. "His self-esteem has really improved."
"(Nichols) is one of the most dedicated students I've ever seen," said Jeff Fantine, director of the Literacy Center. "He is here on time, every time."
Nichols spoke at the literacy kickoff, along with two participants in the ABLE program, about his life and his successes.
The Ohio University employee, who has been married to a librarian for 27 years, has two daughters, one a high school junior and one a student at Ohio University's College of Osteopathic Medicine. After his success in the program, he has more goals he wants to work toward. "I would like to pass my GED," said Nichols in his speech. "I would also like to become an electrician. Be all you can be, and more."
To end the morning session, Fantine read a children's book called "The Big Orange Splot," in which the characters painted their houses to look like their dreams. He related the story to the job literacy educators must accomplish.
"Everyone has a dream, and it's our job to help each of them fulfill that dream."
NOTE: If you would like to help fulfill dreams by volunteering your time, talents or gifts to the Literacy Center, please visit www.ohio.edu/literacy or call (740) 593-4419.
Elizabeth Gray is a student writer with University Communcations and Marketing.