Birdsong supports literacy group

Published 9:49 pm Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Suffolk Literacy Council soon will be able to help more students learn better thanks to a generous donation from the Birdsong Trust.

For many years, the council’s volunteers have used a curriculum called Laubach Way to Reading. But board members recently held a curriculum meeting and learned the Laubach program, which teaches reading phonetically, was not meeting the needs of every student.

Suffolk Literacy Council board member Gin Staylor and Tutor Coordinator Jessica Reitz look at a "Study Buddy" that is used to help students with their math and reading skills.

Suffolk Literacy Council board member Gin Staylor and Tutor Coordinator Jessica Reitz look at a “Study Buddy” that is used to help students with their math and reading skills.

“Laubach is perfect for some of our students, but not all,” said Gin Staylor, a Suffolk Literacy Council board member. “Not all students learn to read phonetically.”

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Board members identified new curriculum materials that will help volunteer tutors teach adults to read, speak English as a second language, do math and perform basic life skills like filling out a job application or reading a food label. In addition, some of the materials being funded by the Birdsong Trust will train the volunteers to use the new curriculum and help the council assess where students are in their literacy skills when they first ask for help.

The Active Reader Series will be the new curriculum available to Suffolk Literacy Council students. The Laubach program will remain available to those for whom it is working.

More machines, known as “Study Buddies,” will be available to the literacy council to help volunteers reinforce reading and math skills.

In addition, materials such as a set of play money and a learning clock for students who are unable to tell time or count money have been ordered. In addition, students who transpose letters or words will now have available special colored filters to put over the page that make it easier for them to read.

In addition, the council has used the money from the Birdsong Trust to purchase adult books on an easier reading level, so adult readers do not have to use juvenile books to practice reading for pleasure.

In all, the grant from the Birdsong Trust will fund $6,640 worth of materials and training for the Suffolk Literacy Council.

Billy Chorey Sr. said the Birdsong Trust was glad to help out after Staylor approached him about the funding.

“I ran it by the trustees, and they said that fits right in with what we’re trying to help folks with,” said Chorey, the secretary/treasurer of the trust. “We’re looking for worthy organizations that are local that have specific needs that adhere to our criteria for giving.”

The number of students served by the Suffolk Literacy Council has grown tremendously in recent months. Since June, the number of students has more than quadrupled, from 11 to 46. Most of that growth has been in the English as a second language program.

Other funders of the Suffolk Literacy Council include Suffolk Foundation, Richard Bennett Trust, Community Action Coalition of Virginia, Pruden Foundation, Birdsong Foundation, Suffolk Rotary Club, Cross Realty and many individuals. The city of Suffolk also provides use of space in the Workforce Development Office.

For more information on the literacy council, visit