Class donates to local literacy problem

    p. If only every time you skipped class you were donating to charity. That’s what happens when a student misses Daniel Byler’s ’09 speed reading class.

    p. Every Sunday, students receive back $5 of the commitment fee they paid for the class. When a student misses a class, his or her $5 goes to a literacy fund.

    p. Last semester Byler collected approximately $1,000 from the class, which will be donated to the Rita Welsh Adult Literacy Program.

    p. The Rita Welsh Adult Literacy Program “provides one-to-one tutoring in basic reading, math, GED preparation and English as a second language to adults in the Greater Williamsburg area,” the online mission statement reads. Participants of the program must be at least 18 and live or work in the Greater Williamsburg area. Half of the tutors are College students and half are from the community.

    p. “Our tutors are all highly educated and range from being 18 to in their late 70s.” Nancy Fazzone, the program’s executive director, said. “Tutors meet with their students for about an hour and a half for each week of the 12-week semester.

    p. Fazzone anticipates that the speed reading donation will be used as a matching grant. “It’ll be offered as an incentive, and we expect it to be received as a challenge grant,” she said.

    p. When asked how the program would use the money, Fazzone said, “The money will go to our budget and be used for things like our award ceremony in the spring, where we thank the tutors and give certificates to the learners. We also print a journal every year called Aspirations, which is a collection of learners’ stories that they submit.” In addition, the money will go toward resources for the learners, such as the computer-assisted learning lab.

    p. Byler said he chose to donate to Rita Welsh because “it serves the local community and a lot of William and Mary students volunteer there.” The first semester Byler offered the class, he had about 20 students and donated $200 dollars. With 100 students last semester, the donation amounted to $1,000.

    p. The class starts Sunday 27 at 3 p.m. and lasts 10 weeks. In last semester’s course, students at least doubled their reading rate, with the average increase being 400 percent and retention levels staying high.

    p. Whereas last fall Byler taught three sections of the class every Sunday, this spring will feature one combined class. He is confident that students will still enjoy the benefits of a smaller class and will keep the same teaching assistant to student ratio of 25-to-1. TAs send each student a weekly e-mail tracking his or her speed reading progress. In addition, office hours will be expanded to provide more individual attention if needed.

    p. This will be the last semester speed reading is offered by Byler. As his senior year approaches and he becomes more focused on his career, the time commitment of 15 hours per week will interfere with his work. “I’ve really enjoyed the class,” he said. “It’s been personally gratifying and I hope the class fills up so I can reach the greatest number of students.”

    p. If you are interested in signing up for the speed reading class, contact Byler at


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