When I was a boy, my mother would often take me to the beautiful old Lexington Public Library building in Gratz Park. We would climb the wide marble steps to the Children’s Room on the second floor, where I began a lifelong love affair with reading and writing.
I will be climbing those steps again this fall, as I have for most of the past seven years.
The old library is now the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning. The old Children’s Room is a well-stocked Tutoring Room, where since 1992 about 4,000 young people have spent an hour each week with an adult for individual academic tutoring and informal mentoring.
I first volunteered as a Carnegie Center tutor in 2012, when I read an op-ed column in the Herald-Leader much like this one. I was then the newspaper’s metro/state columnist. I had a busy life and an unpredictable schedule. But I also had a hunch that helping a child learn to read and write for an hour each week would be fun and rewarding.
I was paired with Saniya Harris, a sweet and smart kindergartener. During the five years we worked together, I watched her become a confident reader — and a young lady with a promising future. She still occasionally sends me a card or photograph.
This year, I will be working with a new child, one of about 200 who signed up for the program and were selected by lottery. They will all need adult tutors, and as is often the case each fall, the Carnegie Center needs more of them — and soon. Could you be one?
Tutors must be at least 16 years old and pass a background check, but no teaching experience or specific educational background is required. Tutors come in all ages, and from all walks of life. Many are college students. Many more are retirees with rich life experiences to share. Others are busy professionals who find tutoring a refreshing break from their hectic, workaday lives. Over the years, several children in the program have grown up and returned to be tutors.
Tutoring takes place at the Carnegie Center after school (until 7:30 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and until 5 p.m. on Fridays) and on Saturdays (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.) A weekly meeting time is agreed upon by the tutor and the child’s family.
Tutors attend an orientation session and are matched with a child whose needs fit their interests and abilities. So, for example, if you aren’t good in math, nobody will expect you to help a student with high school algebra.
If tutors need help, two Carnegie Center staff members — both former school teachers — are there for them. Carol Jordan has been the tutoring director for eight years. She is assisted by Marsha Thornton Jones, who also happens to be one of the nation’s best-selling authors of children’s books.
“Tutoring is about making a difference in a child’s life,” Jordan said. “Giving an hour of uninterrupted time to a child is quite a gift. But it’s also rewarding for the tutors. It introduces people to people they might not ordinarily meet, along racial and socio-economic lines, and strengthens the fiber of the community.”
If any of that sounds appealing, you can get more information at: https://carnegiecenterlex.org/. Or contact Jordan at: email@example.com. You will be glad you did.
Tom Eblen, a former Herald-Leader columnist and managing editor, is literary arts liaison at the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning.