Literacy program to tutor adults in region

  • Athol Public Library STAFF PHOTOS/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 5/30/2019 10:16:07 PM

ATHOL — It’s the little things that make the biggest difference when it comes to self-esteem — applying for a job, passing a driving test, reading a menu at the restaurant.

For adults who are illiterate or have poor reading skills, struggling at tasks like those can make them feel “dumb” their whole lives, said Louise Doud, program coordinator of the Literacy Volunteers of Orange/Athol, based out of the Athol Public Library. 

The Literacy Volunteers of Orange/Athol program is starting its newest session to train tutors Monday, June 3. They will be trained, for free, in Adult Basic Literacy Tutor Training, and learn how to teach adults, one-on-one, basic literacy skills, an endeavor which she called “a great way to help a fellow adult change their life for the better.”

The 18-hour course starts Monday, with further sessions June 4, June 10, June 11, June 24 and June 25, Doud said, and “upon completion trainees may apply to be matched with an adult learner to tutor in basic reading and writing skills.”

Students are 16 years of age and older — Doud said some have been in their 80s — drawn mostly from the nine North Quabbin towns, although the program will accept anyone from other towns. They receive confidential, one-on-one lessons for free, which Doud said changes the lives of both student and tutor. 

“You here stories (from the students) about them reading in their lives,” Doud said. “Things like reading the banner headlines scrolling across the TV, they find themselves being able to do these things and it’s very empowering. It’s great to hear these stories.”

Doud has a background as a reading specialist who became a tutor for Literacy Volunteers of Orange/Athol in 2017, taking over as coordinator later that year. She still tutors her first student twice a week.

“It’s just fabulous. Adults tend to be highly motivated,” Doud said. “Building a one-on-one with any student of any age is precious, but with adults, it’s more of a collaboration.” 

The training course for prospective tutors teaches unique strategies for educating adults, Doud said, which is different than teaching a child to read. 

“An adult has had a longer time to learn patterns that make learning things that are hard very difficult,” Doud said. “They’ll say things like, ‘I can’t do that.’”

“When you’re not able to read well you can feel dumb, and maybe other people have made you feel dumb,” she added.

Doud teaches tutors reading theory, how to help adults learn particular letter-sound patterns and how to spell. This involves teaching tutors about “metacognitive awareness,” allowing them to identify areas their students are struggling in and helping the students recognize, and work on, their deficiencies. 

“It’s a fancy term, but when someone is metacognitively aware, they are not just learning it, but understanding how they are learning or why,” Doud said. “We change the paradigm of learning for them.”

By the end of the 18-hour training course, tutors are preparing lesson plans and practicing them, Doud said, and are ready to help an adult learn to read. The Athol Public Library, Doud said, not only provides a meeting space for the training, but also quiet, private rooms for one-on-one tutoring once students and teachers have been matched. Doud makes matches according to personality types, and sits in on a first, “three-person meeting with (Doud) the tutor and student” to make sure the match will be successful.

Doud said the students are a mixture of native English speakers and those with different first languages. 

“These students are highly motivated, and many have wanted to learn to read their whole lives,” Doud said.

The program started in 1975, Doud said, as one of the first affiliates of the Literacy Volunteers of Massachusetts, which has 12 programs across the state. Funding comes from the and the United Way of North Central Massachusetts, state adult education funds and local fundraising.

For those unable to join the June training session, Doud said another training session will take place in August, and likely another in late October and early November. 

For more information, or to get involved, call Literacy Volunteers of Orange/Athol at 978-249-5381, or email Those who wish to become students may reach out to Doud confidentially, or family members may call or email — office hours are Tuesdays from 3 to 7 p.m. and Thursdays from 1 to 5 p.m., and by appointment. 

Books for Babies

The Literacy Volunteers of Orange/Athol program is also reviving its popular Books for Babies program, which has been defunct for several years, Doud said. 

Books for Babies is “where home-sewn book bags will be filled with books, toys and information and given to parents of new babies through toddler ages in the North Quabbin region.”

Sewers, new parents and library staff are excited for the program to start back up, Doud said, and, on June 18 from 4 to 7 p.m. there will be a “Bag Pattern-Cutting Party” at the Athol Public Library, 568 Main St. 

As with the tutoring program, people should call to sign up — 978-249-5381 — or email

Reach David McLellan at or 413-772-0261, ext. 268. 

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