Latino Educational Empowerment Through Reading (LEER) is envisioned as a multiphasic program encompassing lifelong learning through reading. The acronym LEER means, “to read” in Spanish and we think this acronym best defines our workforce development objectives for our future workforce as well as for adult immigrants who cannot speak English.
Under the aegis of LEER the Chamber has initiatied several programs such as:
- Parent Academy which encourages and teaches parents how to become involved in the education of their children from birth and throught their school years;
- Book Reading for Pre-school Children teaches parents the importance of story telling and setting aside time to read to their children, be at home or at more structured settings such as bookstores, community centers and libraries;
- Summer Book Reading is a program that promotes the importance of setting time aside during summer vacation and on a regular basis to read from a recommended list of age-appropriate books. The aim is to help children and adolescents to maintain at the very least their reading skills while not attending school;
- Learning English for Adults (LEA), an acronym which in Spanish is the imperative form of "to read," is generally one-on-one teaching which is carried out in collaboration with Literacy Councils (LCs) throughout the mid-Atlantic region with Chamber providing potential tutors, adult students and mentors, and the LCs providing tutor training and teaching facilities;
- Online Learning English for Adults (OLEA) is the digital version of LEA carried out in collaboration with The matt Foundation to provide e-literacy opportunities to adult immigrants who generally lack transportation, work long hours and/or are house-bound raising their children and thus, unable to attend English classes. It provides virtual basic English classes via desktop computers and mobile platforms such as iPad, iPhone, and Android devices;
- Book of the Month is a Chamber activity which recommends the reading of business and/or leadership books, titles usually gleaned from national publications' best seller books, but reviewed in-house by chamber leaders and volunteers.
- Donate a Book in Spanish program which encourages members to donate quality books written in Spanish to schools and libraries.
In addition, young people and adults are encouraged to enter the Chamber's companion educational project called Dare to Reach, Excel and Achieve More (DREAM) which helps them to continue learning and eventually earn a GED diploma or enter college.
Briefly, the design and implementation of the LEER program is as follows:
- Phase 1. At the local level, establish an Advisory Committee that would includes participating adult literacy nonprofits, businesses, community organizations and the Chamber. Select a city or county to establish the first program;
- Phase 2. Simultaneously, initiate a news media and grassroots campaign to recruit new English-speaking or bilingual volunteers of any racial or ethnic background (including Hispanics) and train them to become tutors. For instance, presently the Literacy Council of Frederick County has 20 “students” waiting for “teachers” and the waiting list in other jurisdictions is even longer. In our experience, the availability of volunteers is usually the rate-limiting step in accomplishing LEER objectives;
- Phase 3. Recruit “students” through churches, apartment buildings, grocery stores, community centers and ethnic restaurants;
- Phase 4. Roll out the program to neighboring counties served vy the Chamber in order to create a unified, self-sustaining regional program in English literacy for Hispanic immigrants; and,
- Phase 5. Continuation of the LEER Program. After completion of the English literacy training at a functional level (reading, writing, listening and understanding) the Chamber will host an annual “graduation ceremony.” Then, in conjunction with other educational organizations (community colleges, public schools, etc.), the Chamber will encourage “LEER graduates” and other non-citizen residents to enter the DREAM program and earn a GED certificate and/ or apply for admission to a technical or academic degree program, as well as participate in preparatory courses leading to U.S. citizenship and civic and community participation.
The Chamber will continue to seek sponsors to help fund different LEER initiatives and, to the extent possible, help participating adult literacy nonprofit groups in the region raise funds and volunteers.
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