Literacy DuPage - How conversation group leaders SPARK others
JULY 2021
Marlea is a self-identified "volunteer-aholic."
Growing up in Michigan, Marlea's father was a devoted member of the Methodist Church, and he made volunteering a priority in his family's life. Serving others is still engrained in Marlea. When Marlea retired in 2015 from teaching Industrial Tech to junior high school students, she wanted to do something to benefit the community. 
On one of her frequent visits to the Itasca Community Library, she saw a Literacy DuPage English conversation group taking place. It piqued her interest, and she began helping with the group. She completed new tutor training, and after graduation, Marlea continued assisting the conversation group. She also began one-on-one tutoring. Marlea and the student rapidly progressed, so much so that her student tested out of the program! Marlea then decided to only focus on the conversation group and became the official conversation group leader.
The Itasca Library makes the conversation group unique in its participant make-up. 
Many Japanese companies are located around the library, and they bring Japanese employees to work in the U.S. for five to seven years. The employees’ families often accompany them, and the spouses are not allowed to work. The Itasca conversation group is primarily composed of the wives of these employees and has become something of a social group for these Japanese women. And while the group is friendly and welcoming to others, there is a core group that formed. The group is so strong that when one of the ladies temporarily went back to Japan, she called in on Wednesdays at 3 a.m. in Japan to join the Itasca group online. The group averages five to eight attendees per week.
Having fun while learning English 
The group would regularly have parties, feasts, and potlucks. Here the group celebrates with a baby shower for one of the attendees.
Before the COVID-19 shutdown, the group met in the library. Then in March 2020, they began meeting via Zoom with the support of the Itasca library's Zoom account. Last summer, they met socially distanced at a local park, and then they went back to Zoom during the winter. 

Depending on their location, Marlea has designed different activities and learning strategies.
One of Marlea's favorite in-person group activities at the library was a scavenger hunt! Marlea set up different locations in the library (children's sections, career area, non-fiction, etc.) and would have groups of two to three people direct the rest of the group where to go.

The group also enjoyed making muffins together. The library allowed the group to use their kitchen to make an easy apple-ginger muffin recipe. Everyone had their own task in the baking process, and everyone had a scrumptious muffin before they left. The participants enjoyed discussing the different skills and new experiences. Marlea had fun watching the group come together and help each other throughout the process.
The group meets via Zoom and in-person.
The group met socially distanced at a local park for their weekly conversation group in 2020.
The group is currently using a hybrid method to meet. While they enjoy meeting in-person, Zoom also has its benefits. For example, there are no transportation issues. They have had people join from all over the world! Recently someone in Colombia participated! Marlea likes the different perspectives and accents that come from this unique position. 

Marlea is thankful for the conversation group and feels she’s a better person for having been involved.
Literacy DuPage - How conversation group leaders SPARK others
Until next time,

Cassandra Shepherd
Marketing Manager
Literacy DuPage | Email | Website