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James Cutchember made it through his adult life with very limited reading skills. Recently he watched his nieces flipping through magazines reading about fashion and jotting down ideas.

Cutchember, 46, of La Plata got an idea. He wanted to be able to do what his nieces were doing. He wanted to read.

“I’ve got to find someone who can teach me how to do this,” Cutchember recalled.

With help from his employer at the time and his family, Cutchember was connected to the Charles County Literacy Council where he was set up with a tutor.

“I went to my boss and told her I wanted to get into a reading class,” Cutchember said.

He said his boss recommended the literacy council and in just a short time, about a week he recalled, he was paired up with a tutor, Lisa Hackley.

“It was almost like a miracle,” Cutchember said.

The Charles County Literacy Council is a nonprofit organization based in La Plata that provides one-on-one adult literacy tutoring.

Sonja L. Scharles, president of the board of directors for the council, said the council helps adult learners with reading, basic math skills and English for speakers of other languages, and recently the council added support for adult learners studying for the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, an entrance exam for the military.

Currently, the program has about 100 adult learners working with 100 volunteer tutors. Each session is one-on-one.

Books and materials are at no cost to the student or tutor. There is a $20 fee for the initial assessment for the adult learners.

The council works with adults 18 and older.

Francine Morgan of Waldorf signed her daughter, Brittany, up to be tutored through the program. Brittany, 22, has Down syndrome and experiences difficulty with reading.

She sees her tutor twice a week and Morgan said Brittany is reading better and learning to write her home address without having to look at it on paper first.

Morgan said she loves the work the literacy council does to help adults in the county learn to read.

Cutchember said he was a high school dropout and his reading was poor all through school.

About classes, Cutchemebr said when he was enrolled in schools in St. Mary’s County, “Sometimes I would go and sometimes I would not.”

He said he didn’t remember exactly when he quit going to school but believes it was after the eighth grade.

He is currently reading at a first-grade level and said with Hackley’s help and family support, he is enjoying learning.

The adult learners have their lessons broken up into sections and after successfully completing each session they get certificates.

Cutchember is working toward his first certificate, which he plans to get in January.

Hackley, a resident of White Plains, has been a tutor with the council for two years. When she moved to Charles County, she was looking for a place to volunteer and came across the literacy council.

About being paired up with Cutchember, Hackley said when she sees him grasp a word and learn new things it makes her excited to continue to do more.

“He is excited about learning,” she said.

As for teaching the subject, Hackley said, “It’s not difficult.”

Hackley and Scharles indicated that anyone who knows how to read can teach another to read.

Hackley said the council walks tutors through the process and provides all of the resources. She said tutors attend three three-hour classes in order to get the training needed to teach.

With Cutchember, Hackley said they do a little more than just follow the books provided by the council.

Cutchember explained to Hackley his love for cooking and baking, so she will bring in recipes to read with him. Sometimes the two will go to the grocery store together and read ingredients and items throughout the store.

Hackley said Cutchember has become like family to her and he agreed.

Cutchember said Hackley stands behind him and supports him 100 percent.

Scharles said tutors work independently on their own schedules and use materials most appropriate to their students needs.

Cutchember said he was not embarrassed about seeking help learning to read, but understood why some might be.

He said he would encourage others in his position to take part in the tutoring as he does and stick with it.

“Once you get into it and you get the hang of it, it’s easy,” he said.

Scharles said it’s just as easy to get involved to teach.

The only requirement, she said, is that each tutor complete nine hours of the tutor workshop which is offered through the council.

To volunteer

The next volunteer tutor training workshop for the Charles County Literacy Council will be 6-9 p.m. Oct. 23-25 at the Lifelong Learning Center, 12300 Vivian Adams Drive, Waldorf.

For more information on the workshop or the council, call 301-934-6488 or go to