Gordon - Jul. 26, 2008 07:00 AM
In a small classroom at the Avondale Civic Center Library four students listen and watch their tutor at the front of the room.
"Today is Thursday, July 17," said Kathleen Cabraja, volunteer tutor for Southwest Valley Literacy Association. "Repeat after me, 'Today is Thursday, July 17.' "
The small class struggled to repeat Cabraja's sentence. Most of the students know only the English that Cabraja has taught them.
These students are part of the non-profit association's mission to teach English to Southwest Valley residents.
Thirty years ago a Buckeye librarian became concerned about the amount of adults who could not speak, read or write English, said Carlos E. Galindo, association president. Dorothy Huntsman, a longtime Buckeye resident, decided to tutor adult students in English.
Today, the program serves about 130 students and has around 65 volunteer tutors.
"I started a year ago when I took the training course," Cabraja said, a retired attorney from Pittsburgh. "I was looking to do something that was meaningful when I moved here."
Cabraja's father was born in the United States but he grew up and was educated in Yugoslavia. He moved to Pennsylvania at age 17.
"My father did not speak English and there was a woman in town that taught everyone English," she said. "That was one of the reasons I wanted to help with this program."
Galindo also was an immigrant.
"I got involved because I wanted to give back to the community," Galindo said. "This is a great way to do it."
The program uses the Laubach Method for teaching English, which uses images to encourage the students to use their critical thinking skills and imagination.
The program is free for students, except for a $10 book.
Cabraja's native language is English. She tutors students from many different countries, without speaking a word of their language.
"I was a little intimidated at first," she said. "But the teaching method used is very precise. I haven't found the language barrier to be a problem at all."
For more information about the Southwest Valley Literacy Association visit www.swvalleyliteracy.org.