Johnny can't read. And neither can his father.
Public schools are helping Johnny learn his ABCs, but where does the father turn to? The Rim Country Literacy Program.
"We have volunteers that are anxious to give the gift of literacy to those who can't read," said program spokesperson Lois Johnson. The program is free.
Unfortunately, she said, being able to grab the attention of the non-reading public and finding enough qualified tutors is often a daunting task.
"Right now, we have 18 students and 17 trained tutors," she said. "We know there are more people out there that want to read, but it's difficult to find them."
One of the reasons might be the present location of the program, she said. To sign up for the program, potential students must go to the Payson Public Library.
"That can be an intimidating place to someone who can't read," Johnson said. "Once they get to the library, they'll be directed to the Womans Club Room, where they can sign up."
Once a person has made the commitment to learning, he or she is assigned a trained tutor. The two of them form a partnership, deciding jointly what the student's goal is, how fast they expect to achieve that goal, and where they want to meet for lessons.
"We don't do any in-home tutoring," Johnson said. "(Administrator Ken Murphy) has been kind enough to let us use his facilities at Manzanita Manor."
Because each student is different, Johnson said, there's no way to determine ahead of time how long it will take someone to become a functioning reader.
"I can say, however, that the average time a person stays in the program is about six months, and that's not nearly long enough," she said. "When you think about it, we spend about 12 years in school learning to read, so six months is just not enough time."
Tutors also needed
While program coordinators attempt to reach more and more students, they also need more volunteers for tutoring. Students are taught on a one-on-one basis, so the more students there are, the more tutors are needed.
"We have another tutor training session coming up sometime in January," she said. "We would encourage anyone interested in helping someone learn to read to give us a call.
"We like to think of it as giving the gift of literacy."
To learn more about helping the Rim Country Literacy Program, call the library at 474-2585, or Johnson at 474-2533.
Percentage of Adult Population at Level 1 Literacy
Coconino County - 16%
Maricopa County - 16%
Pima County - 18%
Greenlee County - 19%
Mohave County - 19%
Yavapai County - 19%
GILA COUNTY - 23%
Cochise County - 24%
La Paz County - 25%
Pinal County - 25%
Graham County - 26%
Yuma County - 28%
Navajo County - 32%
Santa Cruz County - 39%
Apache County - 41%
Level 1 is the lowest level of literacy. Adults scoring at Level 1 have difficulty using reading and writing skills considered necessary for functioning in everyday life.
Source: The State of Literacy in America: Estimates at the Local, State and National Levels, by the National Institute for Literacy.