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50 Plus Club Literally Lending a Hand

While listening to her speak of her more than 20 years of experience as a tutor for the Literacy Council of Reading-Berks, it’s clear that Sarah D. Yatron ’50 is anything but immodest. It’s the students who should be applauded, she insists, saying, “It takes gumption to come forward.” She says she admires them for seeking help to conquer their illiteracy.

Chances are those students admire her in much the same way, and feel she deserves applause for her selfless commitment to the Literacy Council and the gift that she has given, in the form of her knowledge and her time, to those who wish to improve their literacy and therefore their lives.

After her children were past the age where they needed her constant attention, Yatron decided that she needed to find a way to occupy her time. Before having children, she had been both an English and French teacher at area high schools. She had always enjoyed teaching, and found herself drawn to the Literacy Council. “It was perfect for me,” she says, “because I could make my own time.”

She also feels that working one-on-one with a student is more beneficial, both for the student and the tutor, and was happy to find that the Literacy Council encourages tutors to work with one student at a time. “At one point I was tutoring a Cuban baker. His daughter lost her tutor, so she joined our sessions. I noticed then, however, that he hung back and let her answer,” Yatron says, emphasizing how important one-on-one tutoring is.

After deciding to be a tutor for the Literacy Council, Yatron and her fellow tutors attended a weekend of training. Although the training involved standard teaching methods, “they focused on teaching people of any foreign language,” says Yatron, “and that’s quite a trick!”

Yatron, a French major with English and Spanish minors, is an asset to the Council because of her language skills and her ability to apply them. “One time I went to lunch with one of my students, a woman whose first language was Italian, and a group of her friends. My student’s friends were speaking Italian and thinking that I couldn’t understand…but Italian is close to Spanish!”

She’s also had the opportunity to teach students from several different geographic areas, including South America, Puerto Rico, Cuba and Italy, and her knowledge of languages helped her in many of those situations.

Of course, it’s not necessary to speak a foreign language to be a tutor. “If you can read and write, you can be a tutor,” Yatron says. Naturally, the Literacy Council is constantly looking for more tutors. “There is always a waiting list for tutors because so many people want to improve their lives.”

People will often seek out a tutor from the Literacy Council because they have a specific goal in mind. Yatron has had students come to her with dreams of earning their GED, becoming a citizen, registering to vote, obtaining and retaining a better job, helping their children with their schoolwork, and feeling more comfortable interacting with doctors or teachers. “Tutors make differences in students’ lives as they help them achieve their goals,” says Yatron, noting that tutors do not walk away unrewarded. “A tutor often receives more than he gives,” Yatron says, “as he sees students gaining confidence and self-esteem.”

Yatron clearly believes in the Literacy Council of Reading-Berks and its mission, for not only does she support the cause by being a tutor, she
also serves as secretary of the Board of Directors. In this capacity she’s had the opportunity to help the council with its fund-raising efforts, one of
which is a spelling bee. “It’s a lot of fun,” Yatron says, explaining that different area businesses gather teams. “The teams will all have bells and whistles to cheer on their spellers,” Yatron says with a laugh, adding, “It can get quite competitive!”

But without a doubt, tutoring is her favorite part of being involved with the Literacy Council. “I enjoy it, I really do. It’s very satisfying.” Doubtless, her students agree.

– Loren A. Morgan ’05

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