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Published: Wednesday, 8/15/2007

Time for Energy, time for reading

BY BENJAMIN ALEXANDER-BLOCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

MONROE - Monroe County residents will be running - and sweating - for literacy Saturday.

The 18th annual Energy Run will be at Monroe County Community College, 1555 South Raisinville Rd., Monroe. It benefits the Monroe County Project Read adult literacy program.

A one-mile run will begin at 8:30 a.m. The 5K cross-country race will start at 9 a.m. All proceeds will be donated to Project Read to train tutors and purchase materials.

The program's tutors work with adults to improve their literacy skills.

It's under the Monroe County Intermediate School District's supervision. But the program is its own nonprofit organization. It works on a volunteer basis. Many of the volunteers are retired Monroe County teachers.

It receives no financial support from the school district nor any state funds. Most of its support comes through the annual run.

The county started Project Read in 1986 after the Governor's Literacy Task Force determined that one of Michigan's shortfalls was a lack of basic literacy skills.

The program is always seeking more tutors. To qualify, volunteers must complete 15 hours of tutor training classes at the district, commit one hour to tutor each week, and agree to maintain the confidentiality of their students.

"Tutors will receive all of the training they need to help others learn the skills needed to learn more about the world through literature of all kinds, from being able to read a restaurant menu or greeting card to training materials needed for employment to books for education and leisure," said Susan Miller, a district spokesman.

She said some people attend the program simply to learn to enjoy basic, everyday pleasures.

"For example, one guy wanted to be able to take his wife out to dinner and be able to read the menu," she said. "Also, if parents learn to enjoy reading, then hopefully families will begin to enjoy reading together, and that then benefits the children."

She said it is difficult to promote a program to people who cannot read, because it is not as simple as placing an advertisement in the paper.

"Sometimes things like the energy run build awareness," she said.

Because some people might find it embarrassing if others discovered their reading disability, participants' identities are kept confidential.

While the program's offices are in the school district's building, 101 South Raisinville Road, tutoring sessions are mainly in Monroe County library branches. That's so participants have an easy alibi if they're seen by friends: "I'm checking out a book."

To receive tutoring, Monroe County residents must be 20 years or older, allow at least one hour per week for sessions, and take an evaluation of literacy skill before placement.

In addition to basic reading tutoring, courses are also available for English as a second language and for high school equivalency exams.

Today is the deadline to register in advance for the Energy Run at the Book Nook, 42 South Monroe St. in downtown Monroe.

But late registrations will be accepted on the day of the run at the race site.

Anyone who is interested in becoming a Project READ student or tutor may call 734-242-5799, ext. 1325. A new tutoring series will begin this fall.



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