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Group trumpets joy of reading; Worcester events offered for all ages and backgrounds.

Byline: Matthew Bruun

WORCESTER - Projects that promote literacy will be under way across the city this month as part of the ongoing "Worcester: The City that Reads" initiative.

The program began two years ago after John and Anne-Marie Monfredo approached then-Mayor Timothy P. Murray to establish a committee promoting literacy in Worcester. Mr. Monfredo, retired principal of the Belmont Street Community School, is now a School Committee member, and chairman of the literacy initiative.

"The idea of spreading literacy throughout our community is the main goal of the committee," Mr. Monfredo said in announcing "Love a Book Month," the theme for this year's observations. "The intent is to try to get everyone in the city to think about the importance of literacy in their everyday lives."

Literacy Volunteers of Greater Worcester is also offering several programs during the month, director Laurie D'Amico said this week.

The city has an estimated 70,000 residents who are not native to this country, Ms. D'Amico said.

"The one commonality is, believe it or not, these folks want to learn English," she said. But the demand for free literacy programs is high, she said, and many have long waiting lists.

Literacy Volunteers of Greater Worcester will offer three adult mini-courses this month, with each 12-week session designed to address the needs of specific populations.

On Tuesday and Wednesday mornings and Thursday evenings at the Worcester Public Library, the group will offer courses for new readers who do not know the alphabet and are uncomfortable with any written English. That class will be taught in small groups of five students, Ms. D'Amico said.

The group is also offering a course of interest to women readers on Wednesday afternoons at Abby's House, focusing on historical fiction featuring heroines, Ms. D'Amico said. And there will be an English as a second language book club on Tuesday nights at the public library.

People can register for the free programs by calling the Literacy Volunteers at (508) 754-8056.

Literacy Volunteers is also hosting an adult "Read-A-Thon" at the Worcester Public Library from 6 to 8 p.m. Feb. 8, open to all who enjoy reading or listening to stories. Adults are asked to bring a short story, paragraph or poem to share. Door prizes will be awarded and organizers promise some celebrity readers will be on hand.

Ms. D'Amico said the program is looking for more tutors.

"All the tutor has to be is over the age of 18, have a high school degree and be willing to take our training program," she said. Training for volunteers lasts about 18 hours, she said. "We're looking for 30 people who would like to become tutors."

Prospective tutors can call Literacy Volunteers of Greater Worcester or visit its Web site at www.lvgw.org.

Also planned for "Love a Book Month" are incentive programs for student readers, including raffles of Worcester Sharks and Worcester Tornadoes tickets. Public school pupils in kindergarten through Grade 3 will be eligible for the drawing if they have read 16 books during January, while pupils in Grades 4 through 8 can participate if they have read more than 400 pages during the past month.

Many city schools are hosting celebrity readers during the month, or family programs like a reading of the play "Anne of Green Gables" at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 8 at Roosevelt Elementary School.

On Feb. 14, Channel 11 will host a live call-in show on "The Story I Love Most," during which teachers will share some of their own favorite stories.

The League of Women Voters of Massachusetts is sponsoring essay contests for Grades 4 through 12. Prizes include a $500 savings bond for first-place winners. More information on the contest is available through the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts at (800) 882-1649.

Employees of UMass Memorial Medical Center will be reading at the Belmont Street Community School on Feb. 15, and the hospital will be continuing its "Reach Out and Read" program, involving the use of books as developmental assessment tools in pediatric clinics. UMass Memorial gave more than 24,000 books to Worcester County families last year, Mr. Monfredo said.

Also, Worcester State College students will be reading "Outside Lies Magic" by John R. Stilgoe, with programs about the book's topics scheduled throughout the semester for students and the community at large, Mr. Monfredo said. Anyone interested in taking part can contact professor Susan Gately at (508) 929-8130.

The public library will offer programs throughout the month, from book-related movies to drop-in story times.

Mr. Monfredo said he also appreciates the continued support of Rotmans Furniture Store, which offers programs for young readers every Saturday and offers a used book exchange at its Cafe Fantastique, inside the store at 725 Southbridge St.
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Feb 1, 2007
Words:794
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