Saturday, December 1, 2001

READ/Orange County

Literacy program reaches many
The Orange County Register: November 22, 2001 by Catrine Johansson

Simple things, such as reading a fortune cookie or writing checks are impossible feats for a large group of Orange County residents.

The same group of people often don't vote, don't get higher education and don't get well-paying jobs.

This group is the some 400,000 people who are functionally illiterate, a disguised problem that holds back some 20 percent of the population nationwide from the American dream.''

Since READ was founded in 1991, some 800 volunteer tutors have helped 1,500 students, or ``learners,'' as they are called.

Tutors are available through all 28 county library branches. Eleven branches have designated literacy centers with teaching materials and study rooms. The Laguna Niguel, Aliso Viejo and Laguna Beach branches all have literacy centers. There are 15 tutors and seven learners at the Laguna Niguel Branch; six tutors and five learners at the Aliso Viejo branch; six tutors and four learners at the Laguna Beach branch.

Two Families for Literacy programs that teach literay to whole families are available in Laguna Beach. One meets at St. mary's Episcopal Church in the La Playa Center on Park Avenue, and the other meets at the Boys and Girls Clubs at 1085 Laguna Canyon Road.

All literacy training is confidential in the READ program, West said. Sometimes, not even family members know that a relative is in the program.

Funded through tax money and grants, the tutoring is free of charge to the learners. The tutors do not get paid.

``In fact, we ask the tutors for a $20 donation to cover training materials,'' West said.

Each tutor and learner is asked to commit a minimum of 50 hours over six months to the program. During that time, tutor and learner will work with material that is pertinent to that individual learner.

If a grandmother wants to read so she can read to her grand children, the tutoring will focus on the children's book she wants to read. If someone wants to read to follow cooking instructions, a Betty Crocker cookbook may be used.

``Learners won't learn if they aren't interested in the material,'' West said. ``Once the interest is there we can expand into different reading later.''

In instances when READ tutors work with parents to children in the Head Start program, they will donate the book they've used in the sessions to the families. Some $6,000 worth of books are donated in this way every year.

``It's often the first book in the household or the first book in English,'' West said.

Some 60 percent of the learners were born in another country, West estimated. The remaining 40 percent are illiterate due to slow development, substandard schooling or social promotion through the school system.

``Thank God we're finally getting away from social promotion,'' West said.

For more information, call (714) 566-3070, or visit http://www.readoc.org/.

San Bernardino Public Library

Literacy coordinator brings new worlds to adult learners
The Sun: November 26, 2001 by Jocelyn Cahir

A simple menu, a road map, a street sign. Reading these things is fundamental in everyday life.

Paula Miller, literacy program coordinator for the San Bernardino Public Library, is just the woman to make that possible for everyone.

Miller is being recognized by The Sun for her outstanding work in adult literacy.

"I'm absolutely overwhelmed!" Miller said. "This is truly an honor."

Nominated by principal librarian Millicent Price, Miller is responsible for management, development, training and empowerment of literacy staff.

"Everybody related to the literacy field is so wonderful," Price said. "They are the best people in the whole world. (Paula is) a wonderful human being. She believes in literacy from the bottom of her heart."

Programs such as adult basic education and English as a second language are scheduled at varied times for the convenience of the learner.

"(If) people can't read, they can't function in society," Price said. "(Paula's) so helpful, giving them these skills to function in the world."

The Literacy Center depends on grants for its existence, and Miller happens to be an expert on writing grant applications. The funding sources includes grants from the California Literacy Campaign, Families for Literacy, the U.S. Department of Education and Verizon.

"To offer literacy services, I'm the person that oversees everything and writes the grants for funding," Miller said.

In addition to her normal duties, Miller initiated a free eight-week health education class for new readers, a pilot project she hopes will be expanded statewide. Classes were conducted at the Dorothy Inghram Branch Library and the Paul Villasenor Branch Library. The classes were taught at a third-grade reading level, with the goal of teaching better reading skills to help students better understand health care information.

Officials from the San Bernardino County Health Department and the San Bernardino Fire Department were instructors for some of the classes.

Office manager Glenda Monroe spoke well of Miller.

"She moves furniture with us, teaches class when a tutor is absent, encourages after-school homework and (encourages) students in their studies and leads by example," Monroe said. "(Paula) finds time to learn about everybody in the literacy center and makes it personal, too."

Miller said her work is fulfilling but admits to getting stressed out.
"I do have to say that you wonder why you are here at times, with stress in large, but when you have an adult student that, for the first time, was able to read a menu or a street sign and hug you and thank you, it's all worth it," she said. "An adult can tell you they've done these things that's what makes it worthwhile. That's ultimately why I'm here