Saturday, December 31, 2005

Escondido Library - Word wizard to help out literacy program

Word wizard to help out literacy program
San Diego Union-Tribune: November 9, 2005 by Pat Sherman

Vocabulary virtuoso and grammar grandmaster Richard Lederer has a term for the condition in which a person transfixed by a radio program is unable to remove himself from his carincarceration.

People who are reluctant to exit their vehicles and enter the supermarket or office during Lederer's weekly show, "A Way With Words," will get a chance to see the Presley of parlance in person. The KPBS host and self-described "verbivore," or one who "devours words," will give a presentation to benefit Escondido Public Library Literacy Services at 7 p.m. tomorrow. The literacy program offers adult language tutoring, bilingual computer classes, a mobile library and other services.

The evening with Lederer is free. Proceeds from the sale of Lederer's books, "Comma Sense: A Fun-damental Guide to Punctuation," "Anguished English" and "The Cunning Linguist" will benefit adult literacy services at the library. Lederer will sign books starting at 6:30 p.m. and again after the one-hour presentation.

Lederer co-hosts "A Way With Words" with etymologist Martha Barnette at noon Saturdays. It is rebroadcast Sundays at 10 a.m.

National Spelling Bee champ Anurag Kashyap of Poway has been a guest on the show. Other young listeners with language conundrums often phone in.

"I think our youngest caller has been about 5, and we get a lot of 8-, 9- and 10-year-olds," Lederer said.

He knows the value of a population who can read and write. According to READ/San Diego, a service of the San Diego Public Library system, 422,000 adults in San Diego County cannot read and write well enough to pursue their professional goals or meet daily needs. There are 2 million native English speakers statewide who are functionally illiterate, according to the National Adult Literacy Survey.

"Literacy is a gateway to reaping the full fruits of our civilization, because books allow us to enter other people's minds and lives and emotions," Lederer said. "If somebody is shut out from that, that's just a terrific shameand it's contagious ...

"An adult becoming literate almost guarantees and assures the next generation in that family or circle being literate, so it's really a multiplier."

During his presentation, the Scripps Ranch resident will have fun with language, while taking a moment to talk about breaking the cycle of illiteracy.

"We fight the good fight for standard English, not that it's superior, but it is more useful when you're trying to communicate with other standard speakers," Lederer said. "We would prefer that people pronounce n-u-c-l-e-a-r correctly. Some people in high places say nuk-u-lar, and we're not in love with it," Lederer said.

Literary Services Coordinator Josephine Jones said the number of people seeking the library's literacy services is on the rise.

"As the high schools are now going through exit exams, what happens to all these kids who can't pass the test?" she asked. "Is it tied to literacy issues? Will we be seeing more of them coming through our door?"

Jones said the program has helped many people learn to read and write.

"Some of the greatest success stories are parents who are now able to read to their children and help them with their homework," she said. "We've had learners who've won awards through the various literacy coalitions throughout the state."

The program currently needs volunteers to help adults on a waiting list, Jones said. For more information, call the literacy hotline at (760) 747-2233 or visit and click on "literacy."

What: Literacy benefit with KPBS host Richard Lederer
When: 7 p.m. tomorrow
Where: Escondido Public Library, 239 S. Kalmia St., Escondido
Cost: Free
Information: (760) 747-2233

Monday, December 19, 2005

Orange Co Library - Sharing the need to read: Bakersfield transplant is booked as a literacy tutor for READ/Orange County

Sharing the need to read: Bakersfield transplant is booked as a literacy tutor for READ/Orange County
Orange County Register: Dec. 16. 2005 by Laura Rico

Local resident Laura Bryan was recently certified as a volunteer literacy tutor for READ/Orange County after completing a 23-hour training course. She currently tutors adult non-native English speakers to become, in the words of the organization "better parents, workers, and community members by gaining English language and literacy skills."

Bryan is currently working towards a master's degree in teaching English as a second language and teaches English to non-native speakers at two local community colleges. A recent arrival to south Orange County, the former Bakersfield resident is enjoying the cultural and employment opportunities that the region has to offer.

Q: Why did you get involved with READ/Orange County?
A. I heard about it through one of my professors at Alliant International in Irvine. I was looking for a way to get involved with the community, I just recently moved her from Bakersfield. I went onto their web site, found out more about them and then went to an information meeting.

Q. What are you studying at Alliant?
A. I am working on my master's degree to teach English as a second language. I have about a year left until I earn my degree.

Q. What did your training at READ/Orange County consist of?
A. I attended training for three Saturdays, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. We worked on group activities and strategies on how to help people learn how to read.

Q. Why was it important for you to get involved as a literacy tutor?
A. I feel that in my life I have been so blessed with education. I have had a lot of opportunities and I have also had a lot of experiences that have shown me that other people have not had those same opportunities. I want to help people work towards their own goals.

Q. Who are you tutoring right now?
A. I have been working with a woman for about a month. English is her second language. She is originally from China. We practice speaking English and reading English. She is really excited and is really a nice woman. It is fun to work with her, she is so appreciative and eager to learn.

Q. Have you learned anything from her?
A. We were talking about Thanksgiving traditions and I asked her about her cultural things in China. She was telling me about the Chinese New Year and the different foods they make, like dumplings. It was difficult for her to describe, but she was trying hard.

Q. Coming from Bakersfield, what are some of the main differences you notice between life in the Central Valley and Orange County?
A. There are a lot more job opportunities down here, it was a lot easier for me to find a job. There are more cultural opportunities down here, I can go to plays or to museums.

Q. What do you do for a living?
A. I teach English as a second language at two different schools, Newton International College and Kaplan at Irvine Valley College. At Newton, most of the students are from Korea or Japan. They are mostly older adults just trying to learn English and help their kids at school. Kaplan students want to go into the university or go back to their countries and do something with English there. A lot of them are from Asia, but I have a student from Turkey, one from Germany and another from the United Arab Emirates.

Q. How has it been to meet people from all over the world?
A. So far it has been really interesting. Some of the students just attend classes for a few months, so I am always meeting new people and getting new perspectives on their lives and their culture.

Q. What do you think your students gain from learning English?
A. It gives them self-confidence. Sometimes they don't need English, they have friends who speak their language and they can get around fine. But they feel more confident when they can do things themselves. It gives them more independence and the confidence of knowing they can learn a new language.

Q. Do you speak any foreign languages?
A. I speak Spanish, and my students teach me a few phrases in Japanese of Korean.

Q. Have you always wanted to teach English? A. I have always wanted to teach, but it took me a little while to figure out what I wanted to teach. I lived in Venezuela and Mexico and taught English there. That's how I got interested in teaching English. When I got back I started taking classes.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Corona Library :: Report claims literacy skills not improved

Report claims literacy skills not improved
Press Enterprise: Dec 15, 2005 by Linda Lou

By looking at the way John Zickefoose reads to children during story time at the Corona Public Library, you would think that he's at home with books -- as natural as a "One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish" in water.

But Mr. Z, as he's known to children, didn't read well until he was 35. His 7-year-old son started correcting Zickefoose when he read, which prompted him to enroll in an adult literacy program at the Corona library. Zickefoose is now the library's community liaison.

Today, many adults are still not functionally literate. About 11 million people 16 and older are nonliterate in English; about 30 million people have below-basic literacy skills; and about 63 million people have basic skills, according to a U.S. Department of Education report released Thursday.

The report showed that on average, adult literacy rates have not improved much since 1992. The National Assessment of Adult Literacy report, which was conducted in 2003, found that blacks and Asians are more able to read documents and complete forms than in 1992. Hispanics, however, decreased in being able to do these tasks.

On average, the study also found that women are more literate than men.
And the report showed that people with college and graduate degrees in 2003 had lower literacy skills than their same groups in 1992.

These discoveries on literacy and race, gender and education levels are eye-opening, said Mark Schneider, commissioner of education statistics at the National Center for Education Statistics. NCES is part of the U.S. Department of Education.

These three areas are wakeup calls on what needs to be further examined, he said.


Schneider and other experts say the decline in literacy for Hispanics isn't revealing. They attribute it to demographic changes since 1992. Most Hispanic or Latino immigrants arrive in the United States in their teenage or adult years and don't speak English, Schneider said. The NAAL report shows increases in the numbers of Hispanics and Asians in the nation since 1992.

Census data show that recent generations of immigrants are less educated than previous ones, said Robert Wedgeworth, president and CEO of ProLiteracy Worldwide, based in Syracuse, N.Y. Wedgeworth said the relatively static overall results are alarming. "The suggestion that literacy levels are remaining the same in a world that is changing so rapidly means we are becoming less and less competitive," he said.

But Alayne Sullivan, an associate professor of literacy education at Cal State San Bernardino said that research shows the claims of a national literacy crisis are greatly exaggerated. "We are doing a better and better job, and literacy levels are slowly and steadily going up," Sullivan said.

Sullivan said increases that the report revealed in abilities to read forms and documents among blacks and Asians are positive. "We haven't typically seen those kinds of changes to positive extents for many decades prior to that," she said. "There are reasons to feel uplifted."

The emphasis on literacy has come to the forefront in education in this era of No Child Left Behind and standards-based education, said Diana Blackledge, a Riverside Unified School District assistant superintendent.

The best way to achieve widespread adult literacy is to ensure that every child leaves the K-12 system literate, she said.

Next Steps

Now that a snapshot of adult literacy is available, it shows what needs to be done, said Sharon Darling, founder and president of the National Center for Family Literacy, a worldwide literacy advocate group based in Kentucky.
Literacy efforts should be more focused in the Hispanic community on both parents and children, Darling said. Parents need to be literate to find better jobs and need to be literate to help their children with education, she said.
Sherry Yeh, a Corona parent who emigrated from Taiwan, said she decided to improve her English-language literacy skills about two years ago. She is getting instruction at the Corona Public Library.

Yeh's daughters, who are in elementary school, are getting older and Yeh wants to communicate with their teachers and be on top of their education.
Yeh also said she would like to find an accounting job in the future and needs to be literate. She has seen improvements in her day-to-day life.

"Right now, I can pick up the phone and make a (doctor's) appointment," Yeh said. "Before, I need to ask my husband ... The other day, I took my kids to the dentist. I can fill out the form, but I still need to use dictionary."

Literacy, a Priority

It's more important now than ever to be literate in the 21st century, some say.
Zickefoose, who sits on ProLiteracy Worldwide's board of directors, said 100 years ago, no one would bat an eye if you couldn't read. Just be able to scrawl a signature, he said.

Today, illiteracy is not only a social stigma but affects the quality of life, Zickefoose said. Even with the advance of technology and computers, people need to know how to read to see what's online, he said.

Between 1992 and 2003, many manufacturing jobs have been lost in the United States, while high-tech jobs have risen, Darling said. "It sounds kind of trite, but (literacy) does open the doors for everyone," Blackledge said. "When you're literate, you have access to whichever profession you're interested in."