Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Hemet Library - Gaining literacy broadens Hemet man's horizon

Gaining literacy broadens Hemet man's horizon
Press-Enterprise: August 20, 2005 by Herbert Atienza

Since Edwin Catte learned to read, many doors of opportunities have opened.

In recent weeks, the 57-year-old Hemet resident received a license to operate a ham radio, allowing him to participate in an activity he has been fascinated with for years.

Also recently, he passed a test allowing him to obtain a food handlers permit, which he needs for his job at the local Wendy's restaurant.

Catte is among the hundreds of adult learners over the years whose lives were changed with help from the Hemet Public Library's Adult Literacy Services Program. The program celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, and a number of activities are planned for September, which is National Literacy Awareness Month.

The Hemet program, which receives most of its funding from the California State Library, helps adults gain literacy, either by pairing them with tutors or through self-study with education materials and computer programs. The learners must be at least 16, out of school and speak English.

"It really has changed my life," said Catte, who received a diploma from a high school in Ontario years before, but is first to admit that he just fell through the cracks and never did learn to read in school.

"Literacy affects people's life, health and employability," said Lori Eastman, program coordinator.

She said learning to read lets adult learners engage in activities that other adults take for granted, as well as opens a door that lets them be heard and make informed decisions.

Last year, about 100 adult learners and about 50 volunteer tutors participated in the program, she said.

"I believe that there has to be trust that develops between a learner and a tutor," said Dennis Hatfield, a 67-year-old Hemet resident who has been tutoring Catte for the past year.

"The learners cannot be embarrassed about making mistakes and (tutors) have to admit that they don't know everything," he said.

Hatfield, who retired as a production manager for 3M Co. in St. Paul, Minn., said he has developed a deep respect for adults who seek to become literate because they want to take charge of their lives.

He and Catte meet for a few hours two or three times a week, and they use workbooks that help build vocabulary and reading skills.

They worked intensively in recent months as Catte prepared to take the ham radio licensure test.

Catte said he was inspired to learn to read because he has always been fascinated with ham radio. He said he built his first receiver when he was 16.

"I got tired of listening and wanted to do it myself," he said.

When Catte needed to get a food handlers permit, the two of them studied a booklet with information that food handlers need to know.

Catte said the tutorial sessions with Hatfield let him learn at a comfortable pace.

"He doesn't push me; he has a lot of patience with me," Catte said. "He's become not just a tutor, but a friend."

The Hemet Public Library is planning activities to celebrate National Literacy Awareness Month:

READ-A-THON to mark International Literacy Awareness Day, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sept. 8, at the Hemet Public Library, 300 E. Latham Ave.

HOW TO READ ALOUD workshop, 6:30 to 8p.m., Sept. 13, Hemet Public Library Conference Room.

LITERACY AWARENESS FAIR and Adult Literacy Services Open House, 10 a.m. to 2p.m., Sept. 17, 315 E. Latham Ave., Hemet

S-C-R-A-B-B-L-E Tournament, 4:30 to 7:30 p.m., Sept. 21, Hemet Public Library