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The Growth Of Awareness Of Adult Illiteracy In Britain


Jan Davis, aged 24 Volunteer at Jeffreys Road Library since its opening in April 1977.

Q.What is your background?

A.Well I’ve got a B.Sc. in Mechanical Engineering and now I'm working with V.S.O. in their London office.  I had some teaching experience with Air Cadets and during my College period I spent half a day each week at a school for E,S.N. children working with girls aged 10 - 16.  Ws used to tinker with the old school van, and make musical instruments for the school band.  After getting my degree.  I went to Sierra Leone for two years teaching at a Technical School.

Q.How did you get into literacy teaching and why Rathbone?

A,I believe in self-help in the community and wanted to make a useful contribution, and I needed involvement.  On a personal level, I’d just come back to London from West Africa; all my old friends had moved away, and I was a bit lonely.  I realised the necessity for raising the standards of literacy in U.K.  While I was seeking accommodation I met someone who was a volunteer at the Minet Library through Lady Margaret Hall.  Rathbone Reading Clubs were the first clubs I saw and I liked the informal club approach, so came along to Jeffreys last April when it started.

Q.How do you see your work with your student?  She’s E.S.N. isn't she?

A,Sometimes I just despair of ever making progress, I go home one evening quite pleased, feeling that I've made some breakthrough with a very simple thing - next week we're back to square one.  Everything has been forgotten.  However, I do realise that in fact she has made a lot of progress in the wider sense - it’s not her literacy ability but in common sense - and she is really quite a sensible girls and in her social attitudes.  When she started she was so withdrawn and unable to fit in with a lot of people.  Now she's one of the group and very strong.  That’s as much as one can hope for and I’m sure it couldn't have been achieved in any other way, but by the social atmosphere and relaxed approach we use.

Q.Have you ever thought of becoming a supervisor?

A.I don't know.  I suppose I have the technical qualifications, but I’d need a lot of backing.  Steve, our supervisor at Jeffreys, seems to have it under control so well.

Q.Do you enjoy the socialising - the pub the parties?

A.Well, who doesn’t?  I think it's a very important part of the club.  It helps the students to learn how to behave in a wide circle of acquaintances and lets the volunteers meet workers from other clubs.

© Amity Reading Clubs and Betty Cooper 1978 to 2002 Page 36 of 51

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