Monday, September 1, 2003

READ/Orange County

Locals donate time as literacy tutors
The Orange County Register: August 14, 2003 by Jeffrey Chang

Brean Glenn Rolbiecki spends a few hours every Monday at the James A. Musick Correctional Facility in Irvine, helping inmates learn how to read.

Rolbiecki, 71, is a volunteer tutor for READ/Orange County, an adult literacy service operated through the Orange County Public Library.

Shereen Shoulders, READ/OC volunteer coordinator, said one in four adults -- about 400,000 people in Orange County -- either can't read or reads at a low skill level.

The goal of the program is to educate willing learners and improve their reading, writing and speaking skills, allowing them to prepare for the competitive job market, Shoulders said.

``The focus of our program is to prepare adults for the future,'' she added.

Rolbiecki, a retired truck driver, wanted to give back to the community in his spare time. He learned about READ/OC through his local library. Most tutoring sessions are held at library branches throughout the county.

Volunteer coordinator Bob West said many tutors are motivated by their love of reading.

``Generally, we find that these people enjoy reading, and when they find out how many people can't read they're blown away,'' he said.

La Habra resident and volunteer Viktoria Henry, 58, said, ``I love to read and I really wanted to teach someone so they can love to read.''

Volunteers must go through three hours of orientation with READ/OC staff to determine whether they are suitable to become tutors. Teaching expe rience isn't required but volunteers must understand basic grammar and spelling concepts and be willing to invest the time to teach someone to read. After orientation, volunteers must complete 17 hours of classroom training to learn effective teaching methods, such as using visual aids.

They are then assigned a learner, and after four of five weeks of tutoring, tutors are assessed by READ/OC staff and must complete one last three-hour course before they are certified.

``The training is intense,'' Henry said, but it ``helps you tailor the way you structure the lesson to fit the student's need.''

The core curriculum consists of tutoring sessions, either one-on-one or in small groups, structured around what the learner wants.

Sessions utilize ``all authentic materials used in real life,'' said Shoulders, such as newspapers, books and magazines.

Rolbiecki, who has been a tutor since March, chose to participate in the Working for Inmate Literacy Now program, or WIN. He said this particular component of READ/OC allows him to work one-on-one with inmates, helping them to become more productive members of society. He recently started working with his third learner.

``I'm really enjoying it,'' he said, ``and the inmates really appreciate it.''

WIN provides basic literacy service to pre-screened inmates in the Orange County jail system. WIN tutors don't have additional training but must receive clearance to work in the jails.

Henry works in the Families for Literacy, or FFL, component of READ/OC. FFL involves parents and children in an effort to break the cycle of illiteracy in families. While the tutors do work with the children, the focus is always on adults, said Shoulders.

Henry has been a volunteer literacy tutor for two years and has helped 15 learners.

Another part of the program, English Level Civics, provides English assistance for adult non-native speakers. Tutors provide not only reading skills but teach learners how to gain access to family health care, nutrition and employment skills. ``The program is very focused on literacy because literacy is so essential to be able to move on in society and improve yourself,'' Henry said.

READ/Orange County is a free service offered to adults ages 16 and older who are not in a high-school environment. Residents throughout Orange County are served.

Volunteer literacy tutors must commit to an additional 50 hours of service after being certified. They must also attend two in-service programs throughout the year to maintain their training.

Since the program's inception, more than 1,000 volunteer literacy tutors have been certified and more than 1,500 learners have received help reading. For information, call (714) 566-3070 or visit www.readoc.org .

Riverside County Library

Library event brings parents, kids together to enjoy books
Desert Sun: August 26, 2003 Xochitl Pena

INDIO - With 24 percent of adults in California functioning at the lowest literacy level, reading advocates say it is important to have programs that help instill a love of reading.

At the Indio Library, that is what Victoria Jimenez is trying to do through Family Storytime.

The program runs every other Monday and is intended to instill an enjoyment of reading in parents and their children.

Parents learn techniques on how to read to their children, and children have fun being read to and making crafts.

"It's really important that the families get involved so they can take the experience back home with them," Jimenez said. "The way I engage (children) in the book is what we want parents to experience, so when they sit down and read with their child they can engage their child as well."

Family Storytime will run through December.

Monday's event revolved around a back-to-school theme.

Every child received a free book.

The group talked about going back to school to get the kids excited about staring the new school year.

The next story time will be Sept. 8.

During each event, Jimenez reads about 2 to 3 books, uses finger puppets and ends the evening with crafts.

"I make it really fun, we joke a lot ... but nonetheless it's a learning experience," she said.

Donna McCune, the Indio Library branch manager, said she loves what Jimenez is doing with the program.

"She's been doing a wonderful job. It's been terrific, there has been an increase in the youth coming and using the facility," she said.

The Family Storytime program was made possible through a Families for Literacy grant through the California State Library.

Jimenez runs similar programs in Desert Hot Springs, Thousand Palms and Mecca.

Her Indio program attracts between 40 to 50 parents and children each night.

Children attending range from toddlers to teenagers, she said.

Jimenez encourages parents participating in the Adult Literacy Program to participate in the Family Storytime nights as well.
"The whole family is the focus because we want to break the cycle of illiteracy," she said