Wednesday, October 30, 1985

National City Public Library

West has high stake in finding cure for illiteracy
San Diego Union: September 29, 1985 by Richard Louv
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IS AMERICA, particularly the West, endangered by illiteracy?

Jonathan Kozol thinks so. A mild-mannered Boston writer and grade-school teacher, Kozol has become the leader of a national campaign against illiteracy. According to his statistics, one out of three Americans cannot effectively read a newspaper, or a housing contract, or the sedative warnings on non-prescription drugs. Some 60 million Americans cannot read the Bible or the Constitution.

. . . Continued
According to Kozol's figures, approximately 30 million Americans read at the fourth-grade level or below, and another 30 million are "functionally illiterate," reading between the fifth- and eighth-grade levels.

Kozol has drawn fire from some conservatives who contend he uses inflated figures. Nonetheless, President Reagan's former secretary of education, Terrel Bell, targeted 27 million Americans as hard-core illiterates -- people who read at or below an eighth-grade level. That corresponds roughly to Kozol's figures. Whatever the numbers, illiteracy is becoming a hot political topic.

. . . Continued
Two years ago, the California state library began an ambitious literacy program, largely because of the leadership of Gary Strong, the system's director. "He's an unusual man," says Kozol. "He likes books. That in itself sets him almost alone among high-ranking officials." Strong has assembled a broad-based coalition of concerned groups. These include business people, community activists, and such traditional volunteer literacy programs as the Laubach Literary Council and Literacy Volunteers of America.

"Using libraries instead of schools as the main focus of the campaign is a stroke of genius," says Kozol. "Libraries are one of the few institutions in America that nobody hates.

. . . Continued
California's campaign is the most ambitious state program in the United States. But as pioneering as the 2-year-old effort is, it's not enough. Of the 5 million illiterate Californians, only 5,000 to 10,000 people are being reached. The state's literacy campaign spends less than $3 million per year on the entire program -- about 50 cents a year on each illiterate.

LOCAL EFFORTS are a mixed bag. The Laubauch organization and Literacy Volunteers of America have been toiling for years here. But San Diego's City Council has failed to finance a formal literacy program in the city library system. Nor does the city library participate in the state's library literacy campaign. That fact puzzles Carlos Batara, director of the National City Public Library's Project Read -- which has challenged every city in the county and the nation to a race toward literacy.

. . . Continued
The county library system's Project SURE (Strongly United for Reading), a year-and-a-half old, has recruited 97 volunteer tutors. Director Margaret Trivison estimates that there are "400,000 adult illiterates in San Diego County, people reading at or below the fifth-grade level."


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Friday, August 30, 1985

National City Public Library

Librarian at luncheon
San Diego Union: August 13, 1985

California State Librarian Gary Strong will speak at a noon luncheon sponsored by PROJECT READ, the National City Public Libraries adult literacy program.

Strong will describe statewide efforts to enlist libraries in a new campaign to increase the adult literacy rate in California. Currently, 45 libraries, including National City's, are receiving state funds to develop and mobilize community resources to expand reading services to adults.

"The point of the campaign is to help adults who cannot read out of their isolation and enable them to succeed," Strong said. "Libraries are natural agencies for this."

Strong will speak at Palmer Way Elementary School, 2900 Palmer St. His talk is part of a day-long conference at the school. The conference is sponsored by PROJECT READ.