Students read into illiteracy problem
By Sharon Navarro
Students at Huron College have recently brought a literacy program to Western's campus in hopes to improve illiteracy statistics.
Clair Speedie and Bill Simpson, both third-year Huron College students, made the decision last spring to organize Western's own chapter of Frontier College, a national literacy organization.
"Illiteracy is a national issue and we know we can't change the world, but we want to provide the opportunity for students to make a difference within the London community," Speedie said.
The issue of illiteracy may seem out of place in a university setting but according to a recent survey conducted by Southam newspapers, one out of 10 university students is illiterate. In another survey by the International Adult Literary in 1994, 22 per cent of Canadians surveyed had great difficulty with basic reading skills.
"Being literate not only enhances one's work life, but also one's personal life," said John O'Leary, president of Frontier College in Toronto. The organization exists at a few other university campuses in Canada and is the largest national network of volunteer tutors and popular education professionals, he explained.
During the planning stage, coordinators at Huron said they learned to deal with the bureaucracy involved with setting up a new program. "Each volunteer had to go through a police check and we had to go through a lot of red tape when dealing with the elementary schools and the detention centre," Simpson said.
Western's chapter of Frontier College has three target groups elementary schools on the east side of London, Elgin Middlesex Detention Centre and the Hutton House group home. "There are a number of local literacy groups in London and the national branch of Frontier College has helped us to assess the community to see where these local groups do not reach," Simpson said.
Currently the program consists of 35 experienced student volunteers and 10 executive members who provide the two-day training session for all tutors. Although the program will be based at Huron this year, ideally the group plans to spread the program onto main campus next year, Simpson added.
Tutoring placements begin this month and the group will be hosting a literacy awareness book sale in February.