Words have the power to change lives

Lyn Gavin- passing on the joy of reading.

It would be easy to think that the last place anyone who couldn’t read or write would be was the library, but that’s not the case here on the Sunshine Coast. Each week Sunshine Coast Council Libraries are helping courageous locals overcome fear and develop their literacy, numeracy, speaking and listening skills by partnering them with supportive volunteers.

These include Lyn Gavin, who started volunteering 15 years ago, after retiring from a career in the public service and seeing an advertisement in her local newspaper.

“I was caring for my mum at the time, so I wanted something where I would be working with younger people,” she said.

“I called up about it, and I did a course, which is the way most of the volunteers start off.

“I loved it from the very beginning.”

Lyn said students came from a diverse range of backgrounds and tutors were matched with students based on compatibility and mutual interests.

“We have migrants who want to improve their English and we have people with disabilities,” she said.

“We have a range of students who may have missed out on schooling for one reason or another, like their family situation or illness, and they fall behind.”

Lyn has an extra special connection with her current student Mary.

She started working with Mary’s son when he was 18, and wanting to get his drivers licence.

“He wasn’t able to read or write when he started. Over eight years we got him to the point where he could, and he then gained employment,” Lyn said.

“Mary saw the progress her son had made, so decided to come along to class and in two years she has come so far.”

For Mary, attending the class has helped boost her confidence and she was grateful to Lyn and the other volunteers for giving their time.

“I’ve been looking at words, sounding them out. Before I would not do that,” she said.

“I’d shy away and get really embarrassed.

“I still get embarrassed, but I do sound them out now in my head. Before I wouldn’t try, so it’s given me more confidence.”

When asked what advice she’d give to others looking to improve their literacy skills, Mary said don’t give up and don’t expect to be perfect.

“Some people look at you differently (when you have literacy struggles), which is a shame because we’ve all got something we’re not good at,” she said.

Lyn said improving literacy skills often led to people expanding their world and having new opportunities, which was incredibly rewarding as a volunteer.

“I would encourage people to try it out,” Lyn said.

“It’s a different form of volunteering and everyone gains from it.”

Sunshine Coast Council Mayor Rosanna Natoli commended literacy services volunteers for connecting and engaging to help build a better future for everyone on the Sunshine Coast.

“Their dedication to partnering with fellow community members to uplift and guide them in expanding their language skills is inspiring,” Mayor Natoli said.

“I also applaud those program participants who are challenging themselves to continue to learn as adults.

“It’s no easy task and they should be proud of their efforts.”

Fast facts:

• The program started 35 years ago in 1989.

• The program currently has 110 volunteer tutors.

• The program currently has 77 students.

• On average the program will have 90 students per year.

Visit Sunshine Coast Council’s Libraries website to learn more about literacy services volunteering or improving literacy skills.

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