About Project READ
In 1984, the Illinois Secretary of State’s office made funds available to help adults with low literacy skills. The three Decatur-area GED providers joined with other community organizations to create an adult literacy program funded by the Adult Volunteer Literacy Grant. Project READ was established as a collaboration between the following:
- Richland Community College
- Macon County Regional Office of Education
- Decatur Public Schools District 61
- Decatur Public Library
- other community organizations
Project READ became a program of Richland Community College in 1988 under the direction of former Richland president Howard Brown. We are still funded in part by an Illinois Secretary of State literacy grant.
- Assessment: Through an in-depth assessment process, we learn about each student’s background knowledge, skill levels, and unique learning style. Staff members then develop and implement a plan to increase the student’s knowledge and skills.
- One-on-one tutoring: Students work individually with volunteer tutors who are trained in effective tutoring practices. We use brain-based learning techniques and a multisensory approach to help our students master material. Each student/tutor pair meets for a minimum of one hour per week.
- Resources: We provide all materials for tutors and students. Project READ staff members created a reading curriculum that is easy for tutors to use with adults who are beginning readers. Our staff also wrote an adult mathematics curriculum that covers basic math facts to algebra. Our curricula are multisensory driven and use evidence-based instruction. In addition, we have an extensive library of resources for improving reading comprehension and preparing students for tests needed to meet their employment or educational goals.
Program Coordinator Julie Pangrac directs staff and volunteer efforts to ensure student success, leads Project READ’s funding efforts, and evaluates and reports student and program outcomes. She also establishes and maintains relationships with community partners and educates the public about adult literacy issues.
Part-time staff members include an administrative assistant and three literacy specialists.
The administrative assistant welcomes and assists students, tutors, and others who call or visit the Project READ office. She also compiles program data, maintains the master tutoring schedule, and supervises student office workers.
Literacy specialists assess incoming students and develop individualized plans for their instruction. They also train volunteer tutors, conduct specialized tutoring sessions, and create curriculum and other teaching materials. The primary role of the literacy specialists is to support tutors and students throughout the tutoring process. They are always available to model effective tutoring techniques, answer questions, and provide additional resources.
Our program and staff have been recognized for outstanding work in adult literacy from organizations including Richland Community College, Workforce Investment Solutions, Human Service Agency Consortium, the Herald & Review, and the Retired Senior Volunteer Program.
Adults from all walks of life come to Project READ to improve their reading or math skills. They are eager to learn and motivated to change their lives, but they can’t do it alone. They need help to develop their skills and increase their knowledge. Our staff and volunteers are dedicated to providing the instruction, guidance, and encouragement each student needs. At the same time, students must demonstrate their commitment to the program and its policies.
Our students’ lives change in significant ways as a result of their work at Project READ:
- Many of our students have spent years feeling inadequate or ashamed because of their poor reading ability. At Project READ they find acceptance, assistance, and a new sense of self-worth as they gain skills.
- Our students learn the skills they need for employment. They succeed in job training and interviews, and they are hired or promoted.
- Our students learn the skills they need to continue their education. They enroll in college or vocational training programs, earn certificates and degrees, and become lifelong learners.
- Our students pass the culture of literacy on to their children and grandchildren. As they gain confidence in reading and math skills, they become more eager to read bedtime stories, more likely to monitor school attendance, more helpful with homework, and more communicative with their students' teachers. By reading the newspaper, checking out books from the library, or registering to vote, they expand their own horizons and make literacy a valuable yet routine part of their children's lives.
Volunteer tutors are the backbone of our program. Without them, we would be unable to provide free tutoring for our students. Each volunteer plays an integral part in helping our students achieve their goals.
Project READ offers orientation sessions for prospective tutors followed by training sessions in phonics and reading comprehension or math. Volunteers also observe student tutoring sessions to gain a clearer picture of our methods, policies, and procedures.
Tutors who have completed their orientation, training, and observation sessions are matched with students and coached by our literacy specialists on techniques for addressing the specific needs of their students. Each student/tutor pair meets for a minimum of one hour per week on a regular schedule. Tutoring sessions take place in the Project READ office on the second floor of the Decatur Public Library, where our literacy specialists are available to support and assist students and tutors.