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The Growth Of Awareness Of Adult Illiteracy In Britain

tuition were applied.  Either the progress of the quickest students would be delayed for the benefit of the slower members of the group or the slower students would again be left behind and overlooked in the more rapid progress of the brighter students.

This does not apply in Rathbone, as what is given to the students is individual tuition.  Admittedly, this tuition is provided by volunteers, but any lack of technical teaching expertise is set off by the individual tuition and attention offered to each student.  The befriending and counselling role of the volunteer is a very important aspect of the clubs' functions.  The supervising tutor is also required to have the necessary teaching skills and technical expertise, and the very essential part of this role is the availability “on tap” of that expertise to the volunteers when required.  Very many volunteers draw on that as and when they require such guidance or support.

The ages of students range usually from 18-25 years, i.e. those who have left school and have had some experience of life with time to forget the failures of their schooldays.  When they find that the disadvantages of illiteracy are more burdensome to them than the problems of learning, then they are self-motivated to seek out a suitable means of acquiring literacy.  If by virtue of special difficulties the student is unable to fit into other forms of provision he may well find that the Rathbone approach is suitable to his personal difficulties.  This is the “category” that Rathbone Reading Clubs work with.  It is therefore quite impossible to divide clients into perceptual difficulties, social difficulties or emotional difficulties.  It may be possible to try such categorising, but in fact an adult who has failed to learn to read throughout their years in the education system and possibly other forms of intervention will, almost certainly have a whole knot of problems.  If the client presents with a need for literacy, then that is the nexus of the knot.  Deal with that and hopefully, with other problems that present from time to time as the student continues (in some cases over a long period), and substantial progress may be made on more then one front.

The question of “matching up” of student and volunteer is of the utmost importance to the success of the enterprise.  This is one of the functions of the supervising tutors.  On the student’s first visit, the supervisor will spend time having a long chat with the newcomer, in which they become better acquainted and the student becomes accustomed to the individual who is the pivot of the club.  I have previously mentioned that it may sometimes appear that the supervising tutor is doing nothing but in fact this only indicates that the supervising tutor has the experience to know when not to interfere.  The supervisor’s function is to provide what is required when it is required both for student and volunteer.  During the initial interview, the supervisor will seek to identify the student’s needs and the type of volunteer needed to fulfil these requirements.  In some cases this last may be very difficult.  In one case a supervising tutor in consultation with the Management Group took eighteen months to find for one student the right volunteer who could effect a change of attitude in the student and enable his progress to match his motivation.

The question of student motivation is extremely important.  Although referrals are made by probation officers and other professionals, the students tend to come in response to a lever and often do not stay with the club for very long.  Clients come to Rathbone Clubs because they are deeply self-motivated to acquire literacy and every club worker is made aware that the primary requirement is to get to know the student and to ensure that the student enjoys the club and looks forward to returning each week.  If this can be achieved, the student will eventually make some progress.  If there is any feeling of rejection or non-acceptance then the student will not return and

© Amity Reading Clubs and Betty Cooper 1978 to 2002 Page 19 of 51

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