pat1Each fall the Literacy Council of Upper Pinellas holds as essay contest open to all of our students. We ask that the participants answer the question, ?How has the LCUP literacy program changed your life? in 500 words or less. ???This year I gave myself the same assignment. Here are my 500 words about how being a volunteer for adult literacy has changed my life.

This November marks 10 years of service in both the Rotary Club of Dunedin and the Literacy Council of Upper Pinellas. This is not a mere coincidence. It was through a speaker at a Rotary luncheon that I learned of the opportunity to serve as a literacy tutor. The president of LCUP, Vicki Vinour, was persuasive and urged me to also join the board of directors and really get involved. This was at a time when I had just left full-time teaching at the USF School of Library and Information Science and was looking for a way to be active in my community and continue teaching in some capacity.?? Needless to say, I quickly found my niche in the Dunedin Public Library where our LCUP office is located.

In December 2008 I became President of LCUP and this role has truly been all-consuming. During the past 6 years I have been very fortunate to have the support of great cohorts in literacy who have not only taught me valuable lessons about curriculum and instruction for adult literacy students, but also life lessons that can be only learned by being engaged in important work in the community. Having the opportunity to match an adult learner with a tutor is a great pleasure. I know just how a matchmaker must feel when the bride and groom are perfectly suited to one another.

Another great pleasure is leading a group of English Language Learners in a conversation about current events, US history, or American culture. Learning to talk less and listen more has been an important aspect of my professional development in adult literacy. Our students are capable of teaching us so much about the world beyond Dunedin and Pinellas County, and I know that by listening to them I have become a different person.

Working with colleagues to plan new programs that help our students achieve personal literacy goals (such as becoming computer literate) has taught me the value of a ?working? board that is directed by our mission. Recruiting a training team and working with these dedicated teachers to prepare new tutors has given me opportunities to engage in program development in library communities throughout North Pinellas County. By serving the cause of literacy, I feel like I have given back to my community in ways that I never had time for when I was teaching full time in the school system or at the university. My thanks to Vicki Vinour, who persuaded me to become involved, and to my friend and mentor, Ann Palmer, who is always there to advise. Most importantly, I thank my husband, Tom Bauer, who understands my need to be involved in this important work and knows how to take up the slack on the home front when I am elsewhere.