Since November 2003, Floy Newman has volunteered as a literacy tutor with READ/Orange County's Working for Inmate Literacy Now (WIN) program. WIN volunteers provide basic literacy services to incarcerated adults at one of five Orange County jail facilities. As a highly-trained tutor, Floy works with inmates who have expressed an interest in literacy training to improve their reading, writing and speaking skills. In addition, she encourages them to continue their education upon transfer or release from the jail system, which can lead to a reduction of the recidivism rate and an increase in employment options and community safety.
Each READ/OC tutor undergoes 23 hours of training and is asked to dedicate 50 hours to tutoring an adult learner. In addition, volunteers prepare monthly reports, attend regularly scheduled skills enhancement workshops and submit semi-annual goal achievement summaries.
Floy Newman has far surpassed the commitment level of most READ/OC volunteers. She has been actively involved as a WIN literacy tutor for five years, dedicating her time and expertise to inmate instruction. The 50 hours that she initially signed up to complete have dramatically increased to more than 500 volunteer hours.
READ/OC is the adult literacy service program of the OC Community Resources, OC Public Libraries. The program matches highly-trained volunteer tutors such as Floy Newman with Orange County residents seeking literacy services in order to improve English reading, writing and speaking skills. As a WIN volunteer, Floy demonstrates to inmates that they are capable of improving their literacy skills.
Literacy skills are so tightly woven into every facet of a person’s life – civic, professional, and personal – that it is impossible to separate the impact that the lack of these skills has from one aspect to another. In order to better serve the community in which they live, adults must be equipped for the future. READ/OC assists learners in becoming more effective citizens and workers who can adapt to change and actively participate in all aspects of community life.
The tutor/student relationship that Floy provides is the core of the literacy program. For many of her students, she is perceived as the last or only hope to free them from the restrictions and limitations of illiteracy. Her involvement brings the joy as well as the benefits of reading to incarcerated adults.
Over the past five years, Floy has tutored more than 15 incarcerated adults, providing them with an opportunity to develop reading skills that were not acquired as a child. Skills that many of us take for granted.
When asked about some of her most meaningful experiences as a literacy tutor within a jail setting, Floy mentions a developmentally delayed student who she has worked with from time to time for approximately two years. As a result of her intervention, he progressed from struggling through three sentences in a Dr. Seuss book to confidently reading about dolphins at a third-grade reading level.
Tangela Ashe the READ/OC WIN coordinator says, “Floy may not be able to teach the inmates to read fluently in the short time she tutors them in a jail setting, but by the time their sessions end, they are certainly inspired to achieve even higher reading levels.”
Floy’s dedication to the learners she works with is inspirational. On May 5, 2004 she underwent major surgery. By May 17, she was ready to return to her volunteer duties. Over the years, she has purchased resource materials for her learners to assist them in improving their literacy skills and has never requested a reimbursement. During stressful administrative changes, she remained consistent in providing literacy services for the inmates, encouraging them to achieve their personal goals and helping them acquire reading skills that would strengthen their self-confidence and contribute to their successful transition back into the community.
Floy exemplifies the spirit and value of volunteerism. She touches many lives through her compassion and patience in working with incarcerated adults. Her commitment to the mission and goals of READ/OC inspires others to get involved. Her volunteer endeavors are making a significant difference in Orange County that positively impacts current and future generations.