Post image for Through Tutoring and Friendship, Denese and Carol Share a Love of Reading

Pictured left to right above are Denese and Carol.

This feature was written by student Denese and her tutor Carol.

Denese’s thoughts on getting started with tutoring and meeting Carol
On Sunday morning, I have Sunday school with my church, and in school, we read scripture out of the Sunday school book. I always wanted to read, but I was ashamed of my reading, so I went to my local library to ask them if they had any literature on adult reading.
The library clerk said, “Yes, I will get it for you.” She printed the information out for me. I took it home and called and talked to someone about getting help with my reading. She asked me some questions about myself, and I told her. She said that right now, we are in the Covid 19 pandemic, and we are not meeting person to person, but I will be talking to you in two weeks.
I received a phone call asking me if I can meet with her at the library. So I went, and she went over everything that I needed to know about my tutor. [Denese also received an assessment.]
Carol called me, and we met at the library on February 18, 2022, and my life changed. My reading skills are much better. Thanks to Carol for all you do for me.
Carol describes her work with Denese.
I met Denese as a new student on February 18 at the Odenton Regional Library.
Denese was so open and honest about her struggle to read that I was determined that we would find a way to help her. Her goal was to be able to read out loud in her Bible study at church. We started to review her first Bible study lesson, I gave her some tools and sent her home with homework to practice. We practiced the reading in our next session and worked on the more difficult words together. That next Sunday, she read out loud in front of her Bible study group for the first time! The next time we met, she proudly showed me dozens of congratulatory text messages about how well she had read!
I have watched Denese improve in her reading abilities with every week’s work. She is diligent about completing her homework.
In addition to our workbook work, Denese experienced a first in her life. She got her very first library card and checked a book out of the library to read on her own! She enjoyed that book so much that we started each session together with her proudly giving me a summary of what she had read. I was filled with pride that Denese was finding the same love of reading that I have always had.
Denese has been successful because she is willing to do the work. She is so motivated, and it inspires me greatly. Reading is a lifelong skill, and Denese has proven that it’s never too late to learn.


Post image for Director’s Message July 2022
Our students work hard to improve their skills or learn new ones. Every year, AACLC tutors work with students ranging in age from their early twenties to perhaps their late sixties. This month, we share the story of Denese and Carol, who are working on reading and proving that it is never too late to achieve and enjoy a goal!
More great news…
Train with us in the months ahead —
Trained tutors are invited to join us for an ESL tutoring workshop on Zoom, August 27 at 10:30 am.
On October 15, we will host a day-long Tutor Training Workshop for new tutors interested in working with literacy, ESL, math, and high school equivalency students.
Check here for details on how to sign up for one of these opportunities.
Thanks to everyone who has donated books to our Book Fair. Collections and preparations for the September 24 fundraiser continue!
In August, look for our sign-up email to volunteer at the Book Fair or during two set-up days (September 22 and 23).

With many thanks,

Jane Seiss, Executive Director AACLCJane Seiss, Executive Director
Anne Arundel County Literacy Council
P.S. We are always accepting new students. Find out more about our programs at or inquire at 410-269-4419.
Accepting New Students - picture of a student
Post image for Director’s Message June 2022

June is Immigrant Heritage Month, and we are taking this opportunity to celebrate the many immigrant students and volunteers who are part of our Literacy Council community. Please read CLICK HERE to read about an amazing tutor-student match between two women who were born outside of the United States and chose Anne Arundel County as home. In another post, we’re also recognizing our hardworking student, Qamar, who despite working long hours, makes time to study English at home and at library tutoring sessions twice a week with his tutor Robert.

Thanks to everyone who has donated books to our Book Fair. Collections and preparations for the September 24 fundraiser continue!

With many thanks,

Jane Seiss, Executive Director AACLCJane Seiss, Executive Director
Anne Arundel County Literacy Council
P.S. We are always accepting new students. Find out more about our programs at or inquire at 410-269-4419.
Accepting New Students - picture of a student
Post image for June Is Immigrant Heritage Month

We are thankful for the students, volunteers, and supporters among us who are immigrants. Your many contributions to our programs and communities are vital and much appreciated!

More than 25% of our students were born outside the United States and are studying English. They come from countries all over the world, including Afghanistan, El Salvador, Jamaica, Russia, Sierra Leone, and South Korea.

Many of our volunteers hail from other places too: Ecuador, India, Ireland, and Poland, to name a handful of our countries of origin.

Visit a National Endowment for the Humanities virtual bookshelf, shared in 2021, for an interactive list of projects that highlight immigrant experiences and showcase the contributions immigrants have made to American life.

Student Qamar and Tutor Robert

Qamar and Robert

Qamar and Robert (left to right) have been meeting at the Glen Burnie Library twice a week since the end of March. Qamar recently advanced to level four of our Step Forward ESL series. Congratulations, Qamar and Robert! Many thanks to the Glen Burnie Library and its staff for providing such a welcoming place to tutor and learn.

Post image for Celebrating a Wonderful Polish-Guatemalan Tutor-Student Match

Pictured left to right above are Karolina and Dayany.

This feature was shared by Tutor Karolina Dembinska-Lemus.

My name is Karolina and I was born in Poland. I came to the US at age eight, not speaking any English. I tutor Dayany, who was born in Guatemala and has lived here for six years. When the arrangement with her previous tutor ended, she went for many months without any English instruction. Therefore, I have been working on helping Dayany make English learning a daily habit so she would be less dependent on tutoring sessions and maximize her practice time.

I have Dayany check out children’s books to read to her toddler son. She reads at least one of these books to her son daily. Next, I asked her to start listening to English language music in the background for at least 15-20 minutes daily. Since she had no frame of reference for what I meant by English music, we settled on the soundtrack to the movie “Encanto.” I have her focus especially on one song at a time that she listens to while watching a YouTube video with the lyrics, so she can sing along.

Another thing I have Dayany do is watch English YouTube videos on a topic of interest to her. I showed her how to turn on the closed captioning on the videos, and how to slow the playback speed so she can more easily follow along with both listening and reading the content of the videos. Finally, we practice tongue twisters together as another fun way to focus on pronunciation.

Karolina has a Bachelor’s degree in Linguistics and Women’s Studies, as well as a Master’s degree in Linguistics. She has more than ten years of experience teaching adult ESL classes.


Post image for Book Fair Returns September 24, 2022!

logo image: an open book and text—ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY LITERACY COUNCIL Book FairBook Fair: Summer Update!

We’re hosting our second annual fundraiser book fair at Westfield Annapolis Mall in the Crate & Barrel Court just outside the Discoveries branch of the library on September 24 from 10 am until 4 pm. Here’s lots more information on the Book Fair Page.

We are already collecting gently used books — hardbacks and paperbacks: children’s books, bestsellers, cookbooks, memoirs, thrillers, romance, historical fiction, and so much more!

Contact Jane to inquire about dropping off books for the fair or to ask about sponsorship opportunities. (No textbooks or reference materials, please.)

If you would like to volunteer to help plan the book fair, please let Jane know.

Sponsorship opportunities are also available!

See our Book Fair page and stay tuned for upcoming details as plans develop.

Summer sun and message about donating books

Post image for Dollar General Literacy Foundation Awards AACLC an Adult Literacy Grant


Annapolis, Maryland – June 3, 2022 – The Dollar General Literacy Foundation recently awarded the Anne Arundel County Literacy Council (AACLC) a $5,000 grant to support its adult literacy programs in reading, writing, math, ESL, and diploma studies. This local grant is part of the Dollar General Literacy Foundation’s recent award of $10.5 million in donations to support summer, family, and adult literacy programs, representing the organization’s largest one-day grant donation in its 29-year history.

This grant will allow AACLC to sustain and grow its adult tutoring programs throughout Anne Arundel County.

“For nearly 30 years, the Dollar General Literacy Foundation has been proud to invest in literacy and education programs in our hometown communities,” said Denine Torr, executive director of the Dollar General Literacy Foundation. “The recent and significant shifts in the educational landscape have made the Foundation’s mission more critically important. As we work to create access to high-quality instruction for all individuals, we share our gratitude for the educators who are working to uplift and empower others. We hope these funds will have a meaningful impact on students and teachers across the country and look forward to seeing the positive impact they have on learners.”

The Dollar General Literacy Foundation supports organizations that increase access to educational programming, stimulate and enable innovation in the delivery of educational instruction and inspire a love of reading. Each year, the Dollar General Literacy Foundation awards funds to nonprofit organizations, schools, and libraries within a 15-mile radius of a Dollar General store or distribution center to support adult, family, summer, and youth literacy programs. The Foundation also offers a student referral program for individuals interested in learning how to read, speak English, or prepare for the high school equivalency exam. Referrals to a local organization that provides free literacy services are available online here or through referral cards found in the Learn to Read brochures that are available at the cash register of every Dollar General store.

About the Anne Arundel County Literacy Council

The Anne Arundel County Literacy Council is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that provides free one-on-one tutoring to low-income adults and out-of-school youth (18 and over) who seek to improve their lives by learning to read, earning a diploma, or learning to speak English. We provide free assessments and materials to our students, and all our tutors are volunteers. Students and tutors meet for lessons at local libraries. We have been helping adults with literacy in Anne Arundel County since 1977. There are more than 200 active tutors in our membership, and they collectively donate 10,000+ hours of their time in our communities every year.

About the Dollar General Literacy Foundation

The Dollar General Literacy Foundation is proud to support initiatives that help others improve their lives through literacy and education. Since 1993, the Foundation has awarded more than $216 million in grants, helping more than 15.4 million individuals take their first steps toward literacy, a general education diploma or English proficiency. Cal Turner, Jr. founded the Dollar General Literacy Foundation to honor his grandfather and Dollar General’s co-founder, J.L. Turner, who was functionally illiterate having dropped out of school in the third grade to support his family. The Foundation aims to provide support to schools, libraries and nonprofit organizations that seek to improve adult, summer, youth and family literacy initiatives. To learn more about the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, visit

Post image for Welcome, Michael and John

Two experienced tutors join our Executive Board

Michael Green, Program Chair
Michael and his wife retired to her native Maryland in 2014, after ending his long career as a restaurant manager in Los Angeles. Retirement was a new adventure; he was looking to make a contribution and responded to a notice for tutor training with AACLC. Michael found a group of caring and supportive people who welcomed new members and wanted to make a difference. Most of Michael’s tutoring has been done at the Jennifer Road Detention Center, although he has students elsewhere and is happy to help anyone willing to put themself out there and ask.


John Wetzel, Tutor Representative
John holds an undergraduate degree from Villanova University in Pennsylvania and a master’s degree from the American University in Washington. He retired in 2017 as vice president of Congressional affairs for a national, non-profit trade association. He has lived in Anne Arundel County for more than forty years and has served as a tutor with the Literacy Council since his retirement. In addition, he volunteers at a local food pantry. His wife, Angela, also tutors for the Literacy Council. They have three grown children and are the proud grandparents of two little girls.


Post image for Student Success: Jamal and Jessica
Jamal Meets With Tutor Julia Virtually & He is Achieving His Goals!
Jamal has been working with his tutor, Julia Pensyl since January 2021. They decided to meet virtually due to the Pandemic. Jamal had worked with a tutor previously and stopped. This time, he has demonstrated a great deal of determination to improve his reading skills. Jamal has passed the lessons he had worked on previously, and he is very proud of this accomplishment.
Another goal that Jamal set was to advocate for himself more often. He has been improving this skill by stating when he is tired or needs a break during tutoring. Jamal has advocated for himself by asking his supervisors to schedule an eye appointment to assess his vision. Jamal and Julia discussed the need for a checkup because he was squinting to read. Jamal was able to get new glasses and contacts. He is much more comfortable reading now!
Jamal has also been setting goals for himself to gain more skills for the workplace. He is currently working several days a week at a carwash in the Gambrills area. He assists with the washing, drying, and detailing of cars and trucks. He is looking into finding a class that might help him further improve his skills.
Jessica Earns Her High School Diploma!
In Greek mythology, Sisyphus went through life pushing an immense boulder up a steep hill only for it to roll back each time he got close to the top, forcing him to repeat the task over and over again.
Jessica Whitehead’s ambition to get her high school diploma proved equally daunting — but, unlike Sisyphus, she succeeded.
Building from just two years of classroom education growing up in Louisiana, Jessica faced many obstacles over a four-year span in the pursuit of her diploma, including significant family challenges and health issues.
But Jessica persevered with dogged determination throughout all the hurdles (including working virtually during Covid); her tutors at the Anne Arundel County Literacy Council (AACLC), Ruth Hartcorn and John Wetzel, and her NEDP mentor, Susan Peters, helped and encouraged Jessica throughout the journey.
Congratulations, Jessica, we are so proud of you!!
Featured in the photo above are from left to right, tutor Ruth Hartcorn, high school diploma recipient Jessica Whitehead, and tutor John Wetzel.
Post image for Director’s Message May 2022
As summer fast approaches, we have been busy. In May, we welcomed two new members to our Board. Read more about Michael and John in news we share this month.
We are also delighted to report on two students who are achieving their goals. Jamal is advocating for himself and improving his workplace skills. After years of work with her Literacy Council tutors, Jessica has earned her high school diploma.
Finally, we are preparing for our September 24 Fundraiser Book Fair. Please visit our BOOK FAIR page for book donation, planning, and sponsorship opportunities.
Jane Seiss, Executive Director AACLCJane Seiss, Executive Director
Anne Arundel County Literacy Council