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ROTARY CLUB NEWS: Supporting local literacy efforts

November 25, 2016
Lake Placid News

Twice a year, the Lake Placid Rotary Club hosts a Trivia Night fundraiser for literacy projects, including Literacy Volunteers of Essex & Franklin Counties. This month, our column is dedicated to a story from LVEF.

This past August, Literacy Volunteers of Essex & Franklin Counties received a literacy request for 67-year-old David (his name has been changed to protect his privacy).

Tri-Lakes area Program Coordinator Sean Bourke approached Executive Director Marie Despres with David's dream. LVEF will never turn a student away, even if their needs may be more than LVEF's small staff, limited budget and dedicated volunteers can support.

Article Photos

Longtime Literacy Volunteers of Essex & Franklin Counties board member Kathy Miner poses with a student.
(Photo provided)

David's tutor brought him to the Lake Placid Public Library for intake with the LVEF team. LVEF learned that David grew up in a very rural area of the Adirondacks in the 1950s, dropped out of school in second grade, and worked most of his life on a farm.

LVEF watched David have difficulty with the two- and three-letter words on the assessment.

"As David struggled with the paper," Marie said, "I had a hunch. Hold the paper up. When I did that for David, I was excited to see that he could read more words on the page. I think this issue may be vision-related."

David's aide told the LVEF team he had recently had an eye check, but that she would take him back. After this eye check, David was prescribed a set of prescription glasses.

Sean noticed that most of David's mistakes involved letters that looked very similar. He often confused K and R, and the other similar pair of U and V. Sean suspects that David now is learning letters for what could be the first time.

"It is not cognitive with his letter mistakes," Sean said. "It is all retraining the connection between his eyes and brain with letters he has never really seen."

This quote highlights the important role adult literacy programs play in assisting with the needs of individual learners. It also highlights how sensitive and challenging it can be for small programs to support the diverse spectrum of learning because often the causes are hidden.

Sean put together learning materials specific for working with David at this beginning level, and in just three months, David's literacy skills improved tremendously.

After meeting with David and his tutor recently, Sean described the change he noticed.

"He is much more outgoing," Sean said. "He speaks in much greater detail about his interests when I talk with him, he started volunteering at two different local organizations, and feels great about contributing to his community."

Over the last few decades, the accommodations available to support students with learning disabilities has improved dramatically. Many of our area residents grew up in a period before many of these services were available.

Literacy Volunteers is committed to raising awareness of the misconception that low literacy skills are signifiers of a lack of intelligence. Debunking this common myth plays an important role in empowering our community members to become more active participants in the North Country. Adult literacy programs are so important because our one-on-one interactions with students have the potential to open up whole new doorways to learning that seemed to be forever closed.

The Rotary Club of Lake Placid is proud to support LVEF with community contributions. Rotary meets every Thursday morning for breakfast at 7:20 a.m. at the Courtyard by Marriott. All are welcome. Visit or contact us at, or find us on Facebook.



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