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Literacy Delaware prepares volunteers to teach refugees intensive English language skills

Literacy Delaware Executive Director Cindy Shermeyer discusses the non-profit's volunteer tutoring program Wednesday night.

Literacy Delaware - the sole provider of English language services to refugees settling in Delaware - is seeking volunteers to tutor local refugees in English.

At an information session this week in Wilmington, Literacy Delaware Executive Director Cindy Shermeyer offered an overview of the process volunteer tutors go through– including 21 hours of training, observation from a tutoring coach, and intensive pre and post testing for the language learner.


Shermeyer says the curriculum is rigorous for a reason.


“We’re very careful because this is serious business: teaching reading and teaching someone another language," Shermeyer said.


Shermeyer says the goal is to teach refugees as much English as possible in a short amount of time - while they have time to focus on learning.


“Because we know within 90 days, they’re going to have employment - at least one person in the family will be employed," Shermeyer said. "So that will be difficult for them to take English then, to study, because they’ll be tired.”


Literacy Delaware plans to double up tutors to help them, which Shermeyer says the organization doesn’t normally do.

She adds even outside the refugee community the need for English language skills is great.  Her group already has a waiting list of at least 40 non-refugee students looking for tutors.

The 34-year-old non-profit is just starting this partnership with Jewish Family Services of Delaware to provide tutoring to incoming refugees, supported with grant funding.

Shermeyer says in the past, refugees went to adult education programs offered at various Delaware school districts.


But because Literacy Delaware uses volunteer tutors, there’s more flexibility in scheduling sessions.


That flexibility appealed to Keely Hill, a full-time reading tutor in the Colonial School District who also taught undocumented students in New Orleans. She hopes to gain experience teaching English to adults.


“Jewish Family Services is doing a really awesome job of advocating for refugees and making this opportunity possible," Hill said. "I’m really overwhelmed with how many people are coming out and showing their support.”


JFS's Sarah Green says another refugee family from Pakistan is set to arrive in Delaware Friday.


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