October 16, 2001

Blue Gargoyle sponsors 4th Read-A-Thon

The Blue Gargoyle Adult Learning Program is sponsoring its fourth annual Reader Achiever Read-A-Thon through October 31. The Secretary of State's literacy office has named September “Literacy Month," and students of the Blue Gargoyle, along with other participants, are collecting money from sponsors for every page that they read in hopes of raising funds for their organization.

Program administrator and instructor Marsha Guthridge expects 50 learners and from 25 to 30 other participants to gather money for small expenses, such as office supplies for classes and bus passes for events like field trips to libraries.

Last year, the Read-A-Thon raised around $2000, although Guthridge stressed that this program is not a large one. However, the experience is rewarding for the participants. “It's actually been a very, very satisfying event," she said.

“One of our main jobs is not to get students to learn to read, but to learn to like to read," said Guthridge. “That's what we want more than CTA passes."

At the end of the month, the Blue Gargoyle will host a party for all of the participants, and the reader who has logged the most pages will receive a prize.

Ethel Mae Thomas has been a student at the Blue Gargoyle since the middle of September, and is participating in the Read-A-Thon. “I read quite a bit," she said. “I enjoy reading because it takes me to other places and other times. You learn about the history of the United States and about your life."

Thomas had a stroke in early 2000, and lost her job as a result. She attributes the progress she has made since then to her classes at the Blue Gargoyle.

“What I enjoy most about coming is that I know how to read. It's a privilege to know how to read," she said. In June, she and a number of other students attended a conference of new readers in Peoria. “We were embarrassed because we were old, but when we got to the meeting we could see so many people who were like you; it really enhanced me," she said. “It was just like a huge opening, like I was budding."

Thomas has one sponsor so far for the Read-A-Thon, and she enjoys reading about black history.

Normally, the Blue Gargoyle serves the community by holding classes in subjects such as reading and mathematics for students ages 16 and over. In the Family Learning Project, another offshoot of the Blue Gargoyle's Adult Education Program, students can place their young children in day care facilities and take extra classes on issues such as starting their child reading.

Takiyah Bawgh, a participant of this program, says she and her children “read every day, all day. My little girl will bring books to you."

Betsy Rubin, the family literacy specialist, explains that students aren't working on the General Education Diploma (GED) so much as applying their new skills in practical ways. Thomas agreed. “It helps me with my daily life, with my banking and my checking, and with reading my letters," she said.

Around half of the volunteer tutors come from the University of Chicago, and the Blue Gargoyle is always searching for more. Two University students are earning work study credit as teachers, though the Blue Gargoyle isn't seeking staff members at the moment.

To sponsor a Reader Achiever, the Adult Learning Office can be contacted at 773-955-4108. Donators can be matched to a student reader, or make a fixed donation.