13 February 2017

Who Helped You During Your Literacy Journey?

Last night, I cooked pasta for dinner. After chopping the tomatoes and onions and adding spices, a delicious sauce bubbled on the stove. I boiled the water for the pasta and cooked it until it was al dente.  I served it with minced fresh basil and grated parmesan. During the time I created the recipe, I did not think about the action of chopping the vegetables or boiling the water as laborious. The process of making the food is second nature to me because I learned how to use kitchen tools and recognize what boiling water looks like through practice. I take for granted on a daily basis the basic skills I perform to nourish my body and stay healthy.

Much like cooking skills, my reading skills are second nature to me. When I cooked dinner last night, I glanced over a recipe and made use of those directions to create a delicious meal. When I am reading a book, I do not think about the action of reading or the order of letters. In the workplace, I fill out paperwork and read memos from co-workers without considering the individual words on the page. I move through the world processing the information that I gain through reading rather than thinking about the action of reading itself.

Access to literacy education is a basic right in the United States through our school system, but we must remember that being literate is still a privilege that is based on social, financial, and geographical resources. I ask you to think about all of the people who took part in your literacy journey. Learning any new skill has easy and challenging components. From learning letters and building your written vocabulary to critically comprehending paragraphs and writing essays for college, you and I have received feedback from our teachers. What happened when you struggled with a concept? Did your parents help you overcome your reading obstacles? Were they able to hire a tutor for you? Or were you able to walk to a community center that offered after-school programming based in literacy and homework help? Your ability to read is not simply a measure of how smart you are. Your ability to read is a product of your perseverance, your family’s financial capacity, where you live, your school’s resources, your network in the community, and so many other factors.


The America Reads Program at Salt Lake Community College invites you to become part of an elementary school student’s literacy journey. Providing consistent reading support and engaging mentorship can have an incalculable impact on the life of a young person who is struggling to read the words on the page. Through weekly tutoring, you can help them cut the keys to unlock their imagination, their potential, and a world of opportunity, which will impact their educational attainment, their career path, and their future families. If “knowledge is power”, you will give them the tools to analyze their community, engage civically, and be critical thinkers.

Through the America Reads program, you will:
  • Work with students at Esperanza Elementary, Nibley Park K-8, or the YMCA on a weekly basis throughout the academic year to build their reading skills and comprehension.
  • Earn your work-study financial aid award.
  • Acquire tutoring and communication skills


Samantha Collins is the Community Work Study Coordinator at the Thayne Center for Service and Learning. America Reads tutors reach over 200 youth each year and partner with Esperanza Elementary, Nibley Park K-8, and the YMCA of Northern Utah. Join our team by contacting Samantha Collins or by applying online here.

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