A Committed Reader and Teacher
by Sarah Binns
Multnomah County Library volunteer Ivy Wong loves to talk about books, which means our interview for this article derailed several times as we discussed Harry Potter (the books of which she gradually collected as she grew up), The Hunger Games, and Sherlock Holmes mysteries (some of her favorites). Interestingly for someone as committed to reading as Ivy, her library volunteer work focuses on its people, not on its books. As an English as a second language (ESL) teaching assistant, Ivy provides an invaluable resource to many of Portland's immigrants and others who want to improve their communication skills.
Ivy grew up in Portland with Midland as her home library, though she recalls being awed on occasional visits to Central. While currently working on her bachelor's degree in business through a dual PCC/PSU program, she also volunteers two nights a week at Midland, organizing her college classes around the ESL classes. When I marvel at her commitment, she smiles. “Summer is easier” to balance, she says, “class ends an hour or two before I teach,” so she can go home and eat dinner; during the school year, however, she often eats in the car to make it to her students on time.
In the classroom, Ivy helps patrons with speaking and writing on a theme to get them familiar with English. She enjoys “being able to interact with those who come in for the classes and hear their different experiences.” She says she's met people from all over the world and through her students has picked up some Spanish and Ukrainian words, in addition to brushing up on her Chinese, which she also speaks.
In her spare time -- not that she has much of it -- Ivy reads, of course, with a preference for autobiographies and mysteries. She remembers checking out as many as 25 books at a time when younger. Now, however, she focuses more on her textbooks, but still tries to find time to read in the evenings. It's a lovely testament to her commitment that she says she'll keep teaching at Midland as long as the classes are offered and the students keep coming back.
A Few Facts About Ivy
Home Library: Midland Library
Currently reading: Textbooks for school, mostly business and writing books
Favorite book from childhood: The Boxcar Children series. “I always checked out one of the books when I went to the library.”
A book that made you laugh or cry: In high school, she read the last book in the Princess Diaries series and it struck a chord. “I was having some issues in school and the book made me look at [the situation] differently than I did before.”
Favorite section of the library: Fiction, for the variety
E-reader or paper? Both. “Whatever way I can get access to a book, that's the way I'll read it.”
Favorite place to read: The library or a bookstore