"How do you teach people to love each other's differences?"
by Sarah Binns
When Kim Donovan and her husband moved to Portland from the Sacramento area last year, she left the third-grade classroom where she’d been teaching since 2008. Unable to find a teaching job here, Kim didn’t let that deter her passion for education: “I said, ‘I’m going to the library, someone’s going to need my help!’” Kim was right and she is now a committed ambassador for Multnomah County Library’s Let Every Adult Read Now (LEARN) program.
LEARN is a one-on-one tutoring program for adults who want to learn to read. Volunteers have partners, learners, with whom they meet weekly. Kim delights in sessions with her partner. “I’ve gained a friend that never would have happened otherwise,” she says with a smile. In the span of their few months together, Kim’s partner has progressed from a 2nd to a 3rd-grade reading level. “It’s fun to watch her grow and see her get excited that she can read and have more confidence in daily life,” Kim says. Many of us take this confidence to participate in day-to-day activities, such as identifying ingredients on food labels, navigating the computer, and reading the mail, for granted. Building this confidence is the mission of the LEARN program. Launched in 2010, LEARN is led by Lisa Regimbal, the adult literacy coordinator, and always needs more tutors. You can apply by signing up through the Multnomah County Library website.
The thing about Kim, though, is that LEARN is just the tip of the iceberg. “I volunteer everywhere,” she laughs. “I’m a teacher, I give back.” Kim volunteers with the Red Cross Disaster Action Team, the Cub Scouts, and at Philip Foster Farm, a pioneer historical site where twice a week she dresses in period costume and teaches Oregon history. “Sometimes I don’t have time to change so I go to the grocery store in my costume!” she says. It’s easy to be in awe of everything she does.
Kim also participates in Multnomah County Library’s Talk Time program, in which people meet to practice their English conversation skills. Both LEARN and Talk Time feed into Kim’s ultimate passion to teach and encourage the love of books. “How do you teach love?” she asks. “I learn so much from people’s different stories. How do you teach people to love each other’s differences?” Kim seems to be doing just that through all the work she does for the Multnomah County Library community.
A Few Facts About Kim
Home library: Gresham Library
Currently reading: Children’s books to read to her grandkids over FaceTime
Most influential book: Scripture such as The Bible and The Book of Mormon
Favorite book from childhood: Roald Dahl: as a teacher, she loved to read The BFG and The Witches to her students.
A book that has made you laugh or cry: The BFG because “The kids laugh, then I laugh, then the kids laugh some more.”
Favorite section of the library: Magazines and children’s section
E-reader or paper books: “I almost prefer e-books because I don’t have to keep them on a shelf. But some books you just have to touch!”
Favorite place to read: A chair at home by the fire, looking out at Mt. Hood.
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