Literacy program helps underserved community members struggling to read and write

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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) – Despite the flood of people communicating on an ever-growing number of devices, millions of Americans still don’t know how to read.

Confronting that problem in Rochester is a dedicated group of highly-trained volunteers who go through 120 hours of Orton-Gillingham training just to help out.  This teaching method allows students to break down how and why letters and words sound the way they do. Using multiple senses, children can better understand the rules of the English language., according to the Orton-Gillingham’s website.

Dom Bimberg is a third grader who is part of Rochester Public Library’s Rochester Reading Champions, a program that pairs students of all ages with trained volunteers. And he’s getting results. He’s has improved his reading by one grade level in just two months.

Dom’s experience is hardly unique. 32 million Americans struggle to read, according to a study by the U.S. Department of Education.

“If you can’t read, it’s difficult to get a job, people who can’t read, their health outcomes are worse. It affects every part of your life,” said Audrey Betcher, a volunteer tutor and the director of the Rochester Public Library.

The literacy program started in 2014 and has helped more than 60 students of all ages.

“We have students at the Boys and Girls Club, we have students at some of the different schools. We also have adults at the Detention Center and Hawthorne,” said Gail Harris, coordinator of Reading Champions.

“They are there because they know how desperately they need those skills. And they work so hard. And you’re there to help them over the bumps,” said Maggie Brimijoin, a volunteer tutor who works with adults.

Volunteers say the extra time and effort is making a difference. Reading Champions is receiving a Local Government Innovation Award from the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs for its work Thursday.

For more information on how to volunteer, contact Gail Harris at 507-328-2373 or

Linda Ha

Linda Ha

Reporter | @LindaHaTV |

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