Literacy Council's New Office Seems 'Like A Ballroom'

Group Moves Home To Empire Towers

December 11, 1991|By William C. Ward | William C. Ward,Staff writer

"You can see the Key Bridge from here!" exclaims Pat Eskinazi, gazing out on Crain Highway through the sixth-floor window of the Anne Arundel County Literacy Council's new office in the Empire Towers building.

The modest office is small -- 13 by 20 feet connected by a tiny storage room to a 12-by-13-foot classroom. In the classroom, several chairs are stacked between two tables, leaving just enough room to walk to the window and back. But to Pat Eskinazi, literacy council president, the office is huge.

"This feels like a ballroom to us, this is wonderful space," she says.

Before moving to the new space in Empire Towers, Eskinazi says, the council's offices were stuffed into a Pasadena beauty salon, and before that, the group operated out of a real estate company. "Inthe other office, if you got three or more people in there . . . youhad to do a little dance to get by each other," she recalls.

After surviving a nomadic 14 years shuffling throughout the county, the literacy group, which depends on private and individual donations for survival, finally settled in Glen Burnie in September, drawn by the offer of reduced rent.

The new office provides a place for tutors and students to meet and is easily accessible. The group operates another office in the Social Services Building on West Street in Annapolis, but is able to keep its new office open for only a few hours Monday through


The organization has scheduled an open house from 6 to 9 p.m. tomorrow, and organizers hope the event will attract new tutors, students and donations.

The council is a non-profit private organization that uses the Laubach Training Method to certify volunteers to teach people ages 16 and over to read. The training program, based in Syracuse, N.Y., is used internationally to train volunteers, relying on a phonetic approach to reading instruction.

After a 12-hour training session, volunteers are paired with

students. Students entering the program are tested to determine their needsand arrange with their tutors to meet at convenient times for instructional sessions, usually in the tutors' or students' homes. Eskinazisays fire stations, libraries and other public buildings also have been extremely cooperative in allowing use of their facilities.

Thevolunteers take the students step by step through reading instruction, through the fourth-grade level. Once they have completed the program through the fourth-grade level, students graduate to the Adult Basic Education Program offered by the Anne Arundel County Board of Education or into a high-school equivalency diploma program.

The grouphas 150 active tutors and 25 other volunteers; operates a speakers bureau that talks to civic and business organizations about illiteracy; and administers programs like "Baby's First Step," which encouragesparents to begin reading to their children at an early age.

Eskinazi has her job cut out for her. With more than 30,000 residents in Anne Arundel County listed as functionally illiterate in the 1980 Census, she thinks the best approach is to stop illiteracy before it starts by teaching youngsters to read earlier and keeping them interestedin reading. "They'll have it as a good habit for the rest of their lives," she says.

"We are always looking for more tutors and students," Eskinazi says. "My Christmas wish list is to get more volunteersto help out in the office."

For information on the Anne Arundel County Literacy Council, call 553-0809.

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