Saturday, November 30, 1991

Chula Vista Library - Dr. Seuss helps meet parents' need to read

Dr. Seuss helps meet parents' need to read
San Diego Union: November 16, 1991 by Barbara Fitzsimmons

Patty Testa isn't going to let the Grinch steal this Christmas.

There will be books under the holiday tree at her Imperial Beach home, and she'll be able to read them to her children.

She always wanted to read "Green Eggs and Ham," "The Cat in the Hat" and other Dr. Seuss favorites to Adam, now 5, and Tina, now 9. But until Testa became a student of the Chula Vista Literacy Team (CVLT) a year ago, she didn't have the skill or the confidence.

"Tina was reading better than I was," Testa said. "Her homework was getting so hard I couldn't help her with it."

Testa had made it through the ninth grade without acquiring more than rudimentary reading skills. In the early grades, she was able to "con" her teachers, she said. In the ninth grade, they weren't so easy to fool, so she dropped out.

With help from a CVLT tutor, Testa has raised her reading to an 11th-grade level. Now she's involved in a new CVLT project called the Family Literacy Program. The program is designed to foster a love of reading within families by teaching parents how to read books to their young children.

Meg Schofield, coordinator of adult literacy for CVLT, said the program has two positive aspects. One, it allows adults who have trouble reading to start out with books that are easy and fun. Two, it passes the joy of reading on to children.

With money from a special grant, CVLT buys about $200 worth of children's books for each participating family. The majority of those books are by Dr. Seuss.

"Dr. Seuss is wonderful; he has so much fun with language," Schofield said. "He uses rhyming words, and he repeats words often. He's the king of phonics. He invents words, but they follow the rules of phonics."

In fact, the late Ted Geisel is so loved by local literacy groups that a "Dr. Seuss Tribute" will kick off the "San Diego Reads Best" campaign tomorrow at Balboa Park. The tribute, which will include readings of his books and a song dedicated to the author, who died in September, will run from noon to 2 p.m. at the Organ Pavillion.

Testa's tutor, Lori Thompson, said Dr. Seuss books are ideal early readers because they are colorful and creative with rhythmic sentences and punctuation that is easy to identify.

"Then he slid down the chimney. A rather tight pinch. But, if Santa could do it, then so could the Grinch. He got stuck only once, for a moment or two. Then he stuck his head out of the fireplace flue where the little Who stockings all hung in a row. 'These stockings,' he grinned, are the first things to go!' "

Young Adam has just started reading on his own and already knows the ending to "Green Eggs and Ham."

"And I will eat them here and there. Say! I will eat them ANYWHERE! I do so like green eggs and ham! Thank you! Thank you! Sam-I-am!"

Testa said she was frightened and embarrassed when she first asked for help with reading. Now, though, she is pleased to note that reading has become one of her family's favorite activities. She, Tina and Adam are all learning how to use the public library, and she has set some goals that will challenge her new knowledge of reading. First, she wants to get her driver's license; second, she wants to find a job working with computers.

The final paragraphs of Dr. Seuss' "Oh, The Places You'll Go" may be a help.

"And will you succeed? Yes! You will indeed! (98 3/4 percent guaranteed.) KID, YOU'LL MOVE MOUNTAINS! So ... be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O'Shea, you're off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So ... get on your way!"

Escondido Library - Escondido books new library plan

Escondido books new library planEvening Tribune: January 11, 1991 by Vern Griffin

NO ONE TYPIFIES the changes coming to the Escondido City Library System more than "Larry," one of a new wave of library users in the North County.

Larry is in his mid-30s, has a wife and family and holds a responsible job.

He started coming to the downtown library about seven months ago -- but he didn't come to the library to read one of the facility's more than 180,000 books, magazines or newspapers.

He came to learn to read.

Laura Mitchell, the city's new librarian, said "Larry" -- who really is a composite of the 15 persons now enrolled in Escondido's Read/2000 adult literacy program -- is taking part in one of a number of new programs that Escondido is offering as it embarks on a campaign to better serve the community.

"We have a lot of goals aimed at improving our service to the community," said Mitchell, who took over as librarian when Graham Humphrey retired late last year.

"The next couple of years are going to be busy ones."

She said the long-term goals of the library are to increase its materials from the current 1.7-books-per-resident level to three books per resident for the community of more than 100,000 people.

The Escondido library now consists of a 40,000-square-foot building that was built in 1981. Planning has started on the possibility of setting up a branch library system for the city, Mitchell said.

"We've developed a master plan for our future which will be presented to the City Council next month," she said.

"The city is very supportive of improving the quality of services in the community, and I'm optimistic that we're going to achieve our goals."

The Read/2000 adult literacy program is one example of Escondido's far-reaching goals.

It now has 32 tutors, half of them already matched with adults who are learning to read.

The program, funded with $60,000 in Escondido Library Trust Fund money, is part of a statewide literacy effort. It provides one-on-one tutoring and matches adults wanting to increase their reading levels with appropriate tutors, who are volunteers and are certified in a tutor-training program by the San Diego Literacy Network.

"We expect to be able to match 80 to 100 tutors with students before we're at capacity, and are converting space at the library for the study rooms now," said Lori Dubrawka, coordinator for the Escondido program.

"Our tutors and learners come from Fallbrook, Valley Center, Ramona, Pauma Valley, San Marcos and Vista, as well as Escondido."

She said the free literacy program is seeking more tutors as well as learners and that the library is presenting a free training workshop for potential tutors.

The workshops will be held in the Turrentine Room of the Escondido Public Library at 239 South Kalmia St. on Feb. 2 and 9 from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m, she said.

Dubrawka said Read/2000 is an outgrowth of a volunteer program involving Altrusa Club International, which operates a worldwide literacy network.

But the new adult literacy program is just part of what the Escondido library offers.

The library has computerized its book and reference library, offers a top children's library and is setting up special programs for the deaf, as well as expanding its bilingual materials, programs and staff.

Mitchell said she's a supporter of broadening library materials beyond just books and other publications, and notes that Escondido now has an extensive video film library that includes more than 7,000 titles.

"More than half of these are educational films and theater classics," Mitchell said. "We lend more than 700 videos out a day."

Says the new librarian, "We're doing everything we can to improve the library. We're surveying people who not only use the library, but also ...the non-users to find out what services they would like to see added at the library.

"I feel the library should meet the needs of the largest number of Escondido residents."

Mitchell joined the Escondido library a year and a half ago as Humphrey's assistant. Prior to that, she was with the San Diego County library system for 15 years. She was the regional librarian for North County library branches from Del Mar and Fallbrook to Ramona before coming to the Escondido library.

Monday, September 30, 1991

San Diego County Library

Joe won't have to fool them now
Literacy Services offers adults a new chance at life
San Diego Union: September 24, 1991 by Bob Rowland

When Joe Fernandez showed up for a job interview early one cool summer morning, he brought two key props: a newspaper and an application form that had been filled out for him by a friend.

But when Fernandez sat down to scan the application in front of him, his palms began to sweat. One question...then another, and another...didn't match those on the dog-eared sheet of paper in his pocket.

Frustrated and embarrassed, Fernandez slipped out of the personnel office and tossed the newspaper into the trash, knowing that yet another opportunity had slipped through his fingers.

"When you can't read or spell, you can't get anywhere," said Fernandez, 52. "You can fool people -- like I did whenever I took a newspaper with me -- but you can carry it just so far."

Fernandez sat hunched over a steno notebook one night last week during a two-hour learning session at the El Cajon office of the San Diego County Library's Adult Literacy Services.

The program offers free, confidential tutoring to English-speaking adults over 18. The East County office moved in July 1990 to its present location in a nondescript two-story building at 151 Van Houten St.

"Adults in our culture who can't read do get by, but it takes a tremendous amount of energy," said Pamela Carlisle, director of the East County literacy program.

"There is a stigma associated with illiteracy in this country," Carlisle said. "So much so, that people have a terrible time seeking help."

In the past, distance was another stumbling block for East County residents who wanted to take part in the literacy program. Those who owned cars faced a 40-minute commute to Kearny Mesa, where the unit was previously situated. Public transportation was even more challenging, especially for people working unusual hours.

Since moving to downtown El Cajon, Adult Literacy Services has experienced a surge in activity, Carlisle said. Last year, 178 learners took part in the program, which is carried out by three paid staff members and about 150 volunteer tutors.

It has been nearly a year since Fernandez knocked on the door of Adult Literacy Services. He took that step, he said, after a lifetime of daily frustrations -- and at the urging of one of his children.

"I worked as a laborer in construction for more than 15 years, because I didn't have to spell," said Fernandez, who was born and raised in Holtville, Calif. "But I want more now. I want a better job. And I want to be able to write a note to someone, or read a book or a newspaper."

Fernandez and his tutor, Lynda Martinez, have been working together as a team for months, meeting twice a week at the Adult Literacy center to pore over spelling exercises and vocabulary drills.

"I've always loved reading, and I think it's the most important thing I have to share," said Martinez, who works in the marketing department at United Way."

"Every day we talk about helping people," she said. "I came here because I wanted to put my energy and time where my mouth was."

Peering through silver wire-rimmed glasses, Fernandez struggled with the 26 symbols that have both taunted and eluded him his entire adult life.

Martinez repeated a phrase and waited for Fernandez to begin writing: "The cat is out."

The father of four wrote slowly, a No. 2 pencil gripped tightly in his right hand. For Fernandez, and for the estimated 350,000 county residents who cannot read or write, a simple sentence can pose obstacles, close doors, instill fear.

After several attempts and a few erasures Fernandez smiled down at the sentence he had just written.

Another small victory. But there are more ahead.

"I asked a friend of mine if he had seen the movie 'Misery,' and he said he had but that the book was even better," Fernandez said.

"That book is a long way off for me. But it's going to be there when I'm ready."

Thursday, May 30, 1991



It bothers me. It's been bothering me for years. Shame on us! As a supposedly advanced and educated country, shouldn't we be making greater progress ending our national problem of illiteracy? It can't be as difficult as ending homelessness, which always seems to come down to spending money. Ending adult illiteracy merely requires teaching people how to read, or how to read better.

The subject attacked my conscience again just recently as I sat in a crowded airport lounge waiting for a flight. I glanced up from my magazine. About half the people in view are either talking with someone or just waiting, alone with their thoughts. The other half were busily engaged in something most of us take for granted - reading.

I saw paperbacks and hardbacks, newspapers, a miscellany of magazines, textbooks, brochures, comics, airline schedules, fan-folded computer print- outs and the silvery screens of laptop word processors.

These items were put away momentarily while we shuffled aboard the plane, stowed our belongings and belted ourselves in. But it wasn't long - some people didn't even wait until the plane took off - before the reading materials were taken out again, along with the newly discovered in-flight magazines and the emergency information cards. (I was sitting right next to the over-wing exit window, so I thought I should at least read the instructions about what I might have to do.) A few folks even smiled, somewhat grimly, over the words on the airsickness bag. The point is - a lot of people were reading.

For many years, I had heard the numbers: one out of five adults in this country either can't read at all or have some difficulty with printed words that go much beyond a simple STOP sign, the MEN and WOMEN on restroom doors or other very elementary instructions, signs or labels. Sometimes, illiterate persons memorize these bits of information as symbols, rather than read them as words. Non-readers often have very good memories - better than you and I. They have to; it's a matter of daily survival.

Stereotypical ideas of what an illiterate must "look like" are false; in fact, they look and usually act exactly like the rest of us. Some appear to be - and often are - quite successful in their businesses or occupations, their family relationships and other personal interests and hobbies. The greatest "achievement" for many of them, however, is how well they have hidden their illiteracy from their friends, their neighbors, their co-workers.

Could the well-dressed fiftyish woman in the aisle seat in my row on the plane be one of these "functional illiterates"? Maybe the tall, clean-cut young man carrying the athletic bag, or the elderly gentleman with bifocals who looked like a law school professor? None of them had been reading or speaking with anyone. Yet, it hadn't seemed quite appropriate to go up to one of them and say, "By the way, can you read?"

Late last summer, feeling somewhat guilty about having procrastinated for so long, I signed up to be a volunteer reading tutor through the adult literacy project offered by the Los Angeles Public Library. Libraries, with their endless shelves of reading matter on every imaginable subject, have given me countless hours of knowledge, information and enjoyment for as long as I can remember. But to a non-reader, a library must represent a fearsome and foreign place, perhaps as frustrating and uncomfortable an environment as a high-tech biological research lab would be to me.

My personal motivation in becoming a tutor was to be able to open those library doors, to open the covers of those books, to someone - to anyone - who couldn't read. I wanted to share the pleasures I had enjoyed for so long.

Due to a previously planned vacation last fall, I missed my first chance at the 12-hour training program. The next available program began in March, and I made sure I was there. Those three Saturday sessions were bracketed, perhaps only coincidentally, around Literacy Awareness Week, March 10-16, adding a sense of purpose for the 35 earnest volunteers in our group.

My "student" and I met for the first time in late March. I had looked forward to that moment with anticipation and, yes, some nervousness - like ''meeting a blind date," as one of our instructors put it. I had no idea at what reading level he had entered the program; I only knew that he had - somewhat courageously - asked for help.

Dan (not his real name) is a family man in his late forties (exactly my age). His present reading skills hover around the second- or third-grade level, according to my own untrained assessment. He dropped out of a San Fernando Valley junior high school in the eighth-grade, frustrated at his inability to keep up, but Dan says he's never been without a job. He now operates construction equipment. He is outgoing and speaks quite well; few would be aware of his hidden handicap.

We have met six times, and I am as amazed at his enthusiasm for learning as he is at how well he is doing. "I can't believe I just read that!" is his very frequent exclamation.

As we work together, I have to remind myself that the reasons many adult illiterates want to learn to read may be somewhat more urgent or practical than being able to enjoy a volume of William Shakespeare or John Steinbeck or Shel Silverstein. These new readers-to-be want to qualify for a job or get the promotion that's been eluding them for years, to write a check in the supermarket, to get the gist of local and national news from the newspaper or to read to their young children.

When the time is right - it could be three months or six months, it could be longer - I'll be at least as excited as Dan when we go out for lunch or dinner to celebrate the progress he has made, however large or small. And when he confidently picks up the printed menu and orders something other than ''whatever he's having," we'll both feel pretty damn good!

Wednesday, January 30, 1991

San Diego Public Library - New library to be home for READ project

New library to be home for READ project
Evening Tribune: December 28, 1991 by Claude Walbert

A branch library to be constructed in Southeast San Diego will become a center of community activity as well as home of the READ/San Diego adult literacy project, said San Diego's head librarian.

It will be built on Market Street between 50th and 51st streets in Valencia Park and will house 50,000 books and periodicals.

Library Director Bill Sannwald said the 15,000-square-foot library was designed by Hillcrest architect Manuel Oncina to blend into the 8-acre site while leaving space for trees and paths.

The California Library Construction and Renovation Board awarded $3 million to the Valencia Park project Dec. 19 after plans for the library weathered a stiff state competition. The money comes from the Proposition 85 bond act.

Under terms of the grant, one of 14 awarded to 52 applicants, 35 percent of the construction costs must be paid by the applicant, and the new libraries must remain in operation for 20 years.

The Valencia Park branch will share its space with the literacy project, allowing it to move from its cramped Oak Park headquarters, Sannwald said.

Chris McFadden, adult literacy coordinator, said READ/San Diego will have twice the space now available in its 1,500-square-foot headquarters at 1535 Euclid Ave.

Begun in 1988, the literacy program has helped 1,500 people improve their reading skills, McFadden said. Most of those are adults, but anyone at least 16 years old who doesn't plan on returning to school is eligible for aid in gaining literacy.

The Euclid Avenue headquarters has four paid staff members and 45 volunteers in addition to the program's own library of books and records. It also has seven computers used to teach reading. That number is expected to grow to 18 after moving to the new headquarters, McFadden said.

Tutor training also will take place in the new headquarters, as will tutoring of adults.

There is no firm construction schedule for the library, said Terry Bednarzyk, a spokesman for Councilman George Stevens, in whose district the new branch will be built.

The possibility of adding 5,000 square feet to the library for a cultural center will be considered early next year, Bednarzyk said, with final decisions on construction details to follow.