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Brunner Literacy Center adapts during pandemic

Screen Shot 2022-09-23 at 11.18.31 AM.png.  Brunner Literacy Center / Facebook
Brunner Literacy Center / Facebook

WYSO’s Jerry Kenney spoke with the Brunner Center’s Executive Director Ashley Lacovich about their work, and an upcoming event to help them with their mission.

The Brunner Literacy Center in Dayton serves adults in the Miami Valley who want to improve their reading and comprehension skills. That includes literacy programs for GED attainment; basic education in reading, writing, and math; continuing education; and English as an additional language.

The center says one in five adults in Montgomery County operate at an extremely low level of literacy. When the pandemic hit, the center worked to help them understand the changing health guidelines.

We spoke with the Brunner Center’s Executive Director Ashley Lacovich about their work, and an upcoming event to help them with their mission.

Ashley Lacovich: So, we saw a lot of adults seeking health information initially. And then as that became more clear, we saw a lot of adults coming here because their children were learning virtually and all of a sudden, they were playing the role of teacher. And that's extremely hard for anyone to do, right? I have a Ph.D. and two kids. It overwhelmed me. So, imagine someone who doesn't have computer literacy or even basic literacy for reading and writing, trying to help a fifth grader with math. Extremely difficult. So, we saw a lot of that. And then under normal circumstances, we see a lot of adults who come into our program because they want to help their children.

Over half of our students have school age children, and many of them come with very practical goals. Last fall, we had several students come here because their children were starting school, and so they wanted to learn to read or improve math skills so that they could help their children. So, we do see a lot of that, and it's very important.

Studies now suggest that no matter what the intervention is with the child — you can have a reading specialist at school, and you can have programs at the library — no matter what's going on the outside, if the parents have low levels of literacy, the child is more likely to grow up to have low levels of literacy themselves. And that makes sense. Like I think of my kids, papers from the teacher come home and I go online, and I check their grades and I understand their progress reports. And if I can't do that, my kids are going to fall behind. So that happens to too many people in our area.

Jerry Kenney: With the literacy levels that you talk about in specifically Montgomery County, it seems like there's a tremendous need for your services. So how do you advocate, how do you get the word out about your services to increase your your footprint?

Lacovich: Well, we work a lot with partners and in partnership with other organizations. So, we're the only adult literacy center that offers free tutoring in Greater Dayton. And clearly, we cannot meet the need alone. So, we're actually building a coalition of literacy leaders with the support of the Dayton Foundation's Del Mar Encore Program to help other organizations work better and serve better the folks in their organization, or their clients who have low levels of literacy. But otherwise, we're just chipping away at it. And it is, it's not easy because the need is so great. We always need tutors. All of our tutors are volunteers. We usually have about 150 active tutors at any given time, and many of those tutors are tutoring multiple students. So that is a huge issue for us, is getting those volunteers, especially since COVID, because you've changed the dynamics of in-person and people's comfort levels.

Kenney: You've got an event coming up to help with your mission and that is 5K Run/Walk for Literacy taking place on Saturday, Oct. 8, starts at 10 a.m. Tell us a few more details and how people can get involved in that.

Lacovich: Sure. So, it's going to be a walk or run or hang out if you're not athletic — we have some people who do that, too — at Englewood Metro Park. And it's a beautiful course in the trees and through the woods. So, it's a wonderful way to spend an early fall day. It benefits the Brunner Literacy Center, and it helps us sustain and enhance our services so that more adults can improve their literacy and therefore help their families and their communities. You can sign up online at our website www.brunnerliteracy.org.

Kenney: And finally, Ashley, why is illiteracy so important to address?

Lacovich: I would say that low literacy impacts all of us. It certainly impacts children, and it impacts families, and it impacts the strength of our community. And it's an issue that cannot be solved. And so the Brunner Literacy Center, we're always looking for tutors. We're always looking for support. We're a small nonprofit, so we're grateful for any help that we can get. So, anyone interested in volunteering or supporting us in other ways, please reach out and we're happy to help.

Kenney: Ashley Lacovich, the executive director of the Brunner Literacy Center in Dayton. Ashley, thanks so much for your time and the information today.

Lacovich: Awesome. Thank you.

Jerry began volunteering at WYSO in 1991 and hosting Sunday night's Alpha Rhythms in 1992. He joined the YSO staff in 2007 as Morning Edition Host, then All Things Considered. He's hosted Sunday morning's WYSO Weekend since 2008 and produced several radio dramas and specials . In 2009 Jerry received the Best Feature award from Public Radio News Directors Inc., and was named the 2023 winner of the Ohio Associated Press Media Editors Best Anchor/News Host award. His current, heart-felt projects include the occasional series Bulletin Board Diaries, which focuses on local, old-school advertisers and small business owners. He has also returned as the co-host Alpha Rhythms.