Saturday, December 30, 2006

Los Angeles Public Library - Book Donations Needed to Help City's Libraries

Book Donations Needed to Help City's Libraries
Councilman Joins Authors and City Staff Members to Support Literacy Programs
Park Labrea News - Beverly Press: December 28, 2006 by Kristen Orsborn

Los Angeles City Councilman Tom LaBonge, 4th District, met with Los Angeles city librarian Fontayne Holmes at a local bookstore at The Grove last Friday to encourage holiday shoppers to give the gift of books this season.

"Celebrate the season with a book," LaBonge said in the lobby of Barnes & Noble at The Grove. "A gift of a book on the City of Los Angeles is a great start."

Citing a study by the Los Angeles Workforce Literacy Project, LaBonge and Holmes urged shoppers to pick up books for all the people on their list.

"I can't picture any household where someone didn't receive a book as a gift," Holmes said. "We all have such different interests. Even if there isn't a toy or an electronic device that can satisfy a hobby or interest, there is a book. I think a book is a tremendous gift."

The "Literacy at Work" study shows that 3.8 million Los Angeles County residents suffer from low literacy skills.

"This isn't saying that they can't read at all," Holmes said. "But this is a big problem."

The study uses fourth-grade reading level as the benchmark for low literacy levels. According to the study, 53% of Los Angeles County residents fall below this line.

Even though most people have already doled out their holiday gifts, Holmes stressed the importance of working year-round to combat illiteracy. The Los Angeles Public Library offers tutoring in reading skills at 15 literacy centers in libraries throughout the city, including the Cahuenga Branch.

"This holiday season, the best and most rewarding gift is the gift of literacy," Holmes said. "With a commitment of just three hours a week as a volunteer tutor, you can change the lives of courageous adults who are ready to overcome their illiteracy."

The Adult Literacy Program pairs volunteer tutors with adult students who want to improve basic literacy skills. Tutors and students meet for about an hour twice a week for a minimum of six months. Students must be at 18, or 16 and out of school. They must know and speak English, and be able to commit to the program for six months.

"This is a fantastic program," Holmes said. "It is story after story of how lives are changed by reading. It breaks all of the stereotypes that some people may have about illiteracy. These people working on their literacy skills are people with a serious handicap."

Holmes, who counts Charles Dickens and William Shakespeare among her favorite writers, believes that even in today's computer-centric society, reading is still an important activity.

"I don't want it to sound like clichés, but readings is like the greatest joy and passion," she said. "I think it opens up so many doors and windows to the world. If you are a curious person, then reading widely is so important."

Currently, the Los Angeles Public Library is experiencing a shortage of tutors to pair for the adult literacy program. If you are interested in learning more about the program, visit or call (213)228-7037. Volunteers receive seven hours of instruction and must commit to six months of tutoring.

Friday, December 1, 2006


Press-Enterprise: November 22, 2006 by Diane A. Rhodes

If you can read this, you should consider becoming a member of the Hemet Adult Literacy Advocates.

HALA is a group for anyone who is concerned with alleviating illiteracy in our community. It was formed about four years ago by a small group of tutors.

"Generally, advocates are any adults who see the importance of our literacy program and helps us support it," said Literacy Coordinator Lori Eastman who operates the adult-literacy services through Hemet Public Library.

Working from a small budget, the group seeks grants and donations for its programs that serve more than 100 students.

HALA members do not have to be tutors, although several of them are. They just need to care about wanting to help English-speaking adults who are struggling with reading skills. Eastman said one in six Americans is functionally illiterate.

And in Hemet, 17.7 percent of adults are performing "below basic level" said Jose Cruz, executive director of the Southern California Library Literacy Network.

"This means they cannot even read a TV guide to find out what is on," she explained. "There are a lot of people who need our services."

HALA held a meeting last week to give thanks for the many blessings the literacy program has received during the year, including $7,000 raised from September's Walk-A-Mile for Literacy event.

About 20 people attended to hear about the importance of learning lifetime skills of literacy. Each donating a nonperishable item to a food drive to benefit residents of three alcohol and drug recovery homes in the area that receive literacy services.

Lea Ashworth, the Families for Literacy coordinator, encourages learners to read to their children. The learner works with Ashworth and his or her tutor to become comfortable reading aloud. The goal is to make reading fun for the whole family and to break the cycle of illiteracy.

Focusing on basic reading, writing and math skills, tutors work with adult learners on whatever they need to improve their quality of life.

Ray Strait, president of the Hemet Library Board of Trustees and a tutor for about five years, is helping a student prepare for the written portion of his driver's license test.

Part of the intake process is to discuss goals and what brought them to the program, Eastman said. It might be filling out a job application or learning food-related words and terms to get a job at a restaurant.

Eastman said that 70 percent of learners who set a goal of being able to vote were successful in meeting their goal.

Melany Piotrowski was a special education teacher for years. She found that problems in the home often contributed to reading difficulties.

HALA members meet each month at the Literacy Services center at 315 E. Latham in Hemet and pay monthly dues of $1.
Information, 951-765-3856

Friday, September 29, 2006

Ventura Co Library - Bicyclists to ride for literacy program Rotary services will also benefit

Bicyclists to ride for literacy program Rotary services will also benefitVentura County Star: September 29, 2006

The Ventura County Library Adult Literacy Program and the Ventura Rotary Club will benefit when bicycling enthusiasts take part in the Oct. 7 Harvest Family Ride for Literacy.

The event, starting and finishing at the Ventura Unified School District Administrative Offices, 255 W. Stanley Ave., Ventura, will feature routes to fit riders of all ages. Riders have the option of 30- , 55- or 100-mile rides or a 12-mile ride for families with children under 10 years of age. Helmets are a must for all riders.

The rides will take participants along the Ventura and Santa Barbara coastline, with the 30-mile trek going to the first rest stop and the riders on the 55-mile ride continuing through Carpinteria and the nurseries of Summerland to Montecito. The 100-miler continues through the mountains overlooking Santa Barbara, returning along the bluffs above the coastline and along the beaches.

The Family Ride will take riders along the Ojai bicycle path to Foster Park.

Start times are: 7 a.m., 100-mile; 7:30 a.m., 55-mile; 8 a.m., 30-mile; and 9:30 a.m., family ride. The event is not a race.

Online registration will close at noon Thursday. Fees are $40 per single rider or $60 tandem. On-site registration on Oct. 7 is $45 and $65. Fee for the family ride is $20 per family.

Registration includes a T-shirt (not included for Family Ride), support vehicle assistance and fully catered rest stops. The event will take place rain or shine - no refunds. Riders under 14 must ride with an adult.

Participants can check in and register Friday night, picking up their ride packets from 5 to 7 p.m. at E.P. Foster Library, 651 E. Main St., Ventura. Registration the day of the ride will be at the starting site.

Proceeds of the ride will go to the Rotary Club of Ventura, a service organization supporting adult literacy, programs for at-risk youth, child immunization projects and violence prevention programs and Ventura County Library's reading program for adults. The library program provides free one-to-one tutoring for English-speaking and English-learning adults who struggle with reading and writing tasks. Students meet weekly with trained volunteer tutors throughout Ventura County to improve reading skills and work on individual educational goals.

For more information on the Oct. 7 rides, call 642-7089, or visit

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Hemet Library - People get moving for literacy event in Hemet: People take stand for education in Hemet

People get moving for literacy event in Hemet: People take stand for education in Hemet
Press Enterprise: Sep 9, 2006 by Diane Rhodes

More than 200 people learned what it was like to walk in the shoes of an illiterate person when they participated in the Walk-A-Mile for Literacy event on Saturday in Hemet.

Volunteers at Hemet Public Library Adult Literacy Services said the purpose was to raise funds and awareness of the issues faced by illiterate and low-functioning readers. The literacy center on Latham Avenue was the starting point for the walk that was completed in about an hour by most participants.

Ten businesses along the route educated walkers on the importance of reading skills through display placards, brochures and other handouts. They also distributed tickets for door prizes to those wearing an orange wristband containing the word "read" in several languages that signified they were walking for the cause.

"I need help reading menus, signs, instructions and my bank statements," said Melissa Stults, 27. "Everywhere I go I have trouble because I can't read very well."

Stults began the literacy program about two and a half years ago and says it has helped her improve. She looks forward to reading to her 16-month-old son, Joseph, and someday being able to help him with his homework.

When adult learners enter the program they are assessed by literacy coordinator Lori Eastman. Learners, about 100 a year, are then matched with one of about 60 tutors.

Brenda Mathews became a tutor four months ago. She said some learners state their goal is to read a map or bus schedule, while others want to learn how to read a newspaper.

"You see immediate growth," said Mathews. The adult learner she works with one on one is in her 70s and wants to read to her grandkids because right now they are reading to her.

Finders Keepers Antiques had a sign that showed the value of reading ads.

The point was illustrated by having one side of the board written in scrambled letters that did not form words.

Clare Herder took time to read the board with her son, Thomas, 6, before moving on to the next stop.

"See all the things you can't do if you can't read or write?" she asked him.

The first-grader was one of many children who showed up in bright-red T-shirts they earned at the library's summer reading program.

"We're just a book family," said Herder, of Hemet. "I can't imagine life without reading."

Mary Snow and Kathi Dukes from United Way explained how adults struggling with low-literacy skills may need help in other parts of their lives.

"Finding out about community services can be a challenge if someone can't read," said Dukes.

For more information on the program, call 951-765-3856.

Photo: Carol Stahr, left, offers handouts to participants in the Walk-A-Mile for Literacy event in Hemet on Saturday.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Lompoc Library - Literacy: Where dreams begin

Literacy: Where dreams begin
Lompoc Record: Sep 8, 2006 by John McReynolds

Ian Vorster/Staff Yolanda Calderon and Dick Clark relax for a few moments Tuesday at the table in the Lompoc Library at which Calderon learned to speak, read and write English. The many hours the two have spent together have resulted in Calderon being able to open her own childcare business.

Today is
International Literacy Day, but no pictures of barefoot, poverty-stricken children are necessary.

Visualize instead a young mother at the Lompoc Public Library with a book in one hand and a bottle in the other. Less than five years ago, Yolanda Calderon was that mother.

She and tutor Dick Clark are the superstars of the library's Adult Reading Program.

Since Calderon began the program, she has become a U.S. citizen, passed CPR and first-aid classes, has started her own child-care business, and has begun classes at Allan Hancock College to further her dream of becoming a teacher.

“When I came (from Mexico) I didn't know how to ask for paper or plastic,” Calderon said. “I feel very proud of helping my kids. All my kids' lessons are in English. I understand them. When I have a parent conference they don't have to translate. I don't need help any more. I can do it.”

Clark, a 24-year Air Force veteran, holds three masters' degrees, yet he and Calderon are remarkably similar.

They are both self-starters who began back in the pack.

Clark, 70, is short and trim and prodigiously energetic. He and his wife, Doris, play tennis and ride bikes, on occasion for three hours at a stretch.

A San Gabriel Valley native, he enlisted in the Air Force after a brief and less-than-successful high school experience. Through the service he earned a bachelor's in business from Colorado, then earned those advanced degrees - in electrical engineering from the Air Force Institute of Technology at Wright-Patterson AFB in Ohio, in systems management from USC, and in business from Golden Gate University at Vandenberg. After active duty he spent 18 years working for Vandenberg contractors as a computer programmer. He taught mathematics at night for Hancock College, but he retired from it all in 1995.

“When I retired I retired from the job, not from life,” Clark said in his characteristically clipped, anything-is-possible-let's-get-on-with-it fashion.

After shopping around for fulfilling volunteer programs, he read an advertisement for the library's reading program in early 1997. It was a perfect fit. “I didn't want to go back to teaching. This is one-on-one and I don't have to test.”

Plus it took place at the library, one of Clark's favorite places.

“I have an affinity for libraries and I wanted to help,” he said with unassailable logic. In addition to the reading program, Clark volunteers to check in books once a week and is now in the third year of a three-year term as president of the library board.

Eight years ago, Yolanda Calderon appeared and her needs meshed seamlessly with yet another of Clark's avocations, teaching himself Spanish. He watches telenovelas and reads in Spanish daily.

Improved Spanish, which he only uses in tutoring as a last resort, is just one of Clark's paybacks for his work. “It puts some structure back in my life,” he said. “I have to get cleaned up. I have to shave. I have to prepare for my class.” Clark has more students than any other volunteer - four. He dedicates eight to 10 hours a week to them.

He takes personal pride in their accomplishments. Three of them took the U.S. citizenship exam and all passed with perfect, 20 of 20, scores. “They make the progress but I had a hand in it.”

And the students appreciate him. Sometimes he receives gifts of lettuce fresh from the field. “He is the foundation for everything I've done,” Calderon said.

She was illiterate in English, but not in Spanish when she immigrated 12 years ago. Despite coming from a family of seven, she had advanced to the second year of university in the provincial capital of Morelia before dropping out for lack of finances.

In Lompoc, Calderon, with the support of her husband Enrique, took the initiative.

Library Literacy Coordinator Christine Chill introduced Clark to Calderon when her son Kevin, now 11, was three. Then Calderon gave birth to Adrian, now 7, and Lisette, 5, but pregnancies were only momentary delays.

“She'd be up here writing and holding a bottle with the other hand,” Clark recalled. “That baby is now 5 years old.”

When Calderon signed up, her immediate objectives were simply to help her son with his homework, to read the mail, and to get a better job, but they soon expanded. Her dream was, and still is, to become a special-education teacher.

“My goal has always been the same. Just that my Mexican qualifications don't apply, so I had to start from the bottom,” she said.

Applying for citizenship was Clark's idea. “I owe it all to him,” she said. “I wasn't interested in it at first, but he told me I could do it. I was afraid, but I did it. His explanations were so good I didn't have to memorize anything.”

Clark prides himself on understanding the challenges faced by students who must juggle families, husbands and jobs along with learning. He shifts weekly meeting times as his students request. He even encourages them to bring their kids.

“I try to make them be a part of it,” he said of the children. “They see their mothers learning and it brings rapport between the kids and me. They give me high fives. It also encourages use of the library.”

Clark invites students to bring anything from home that they might have questions about. Frequently they are notes from school. In Calderon's case they have been questions about an English, or CPR, or first-aid class she was taking concurrently.

Calderon may stand out for her tenacious commitment to her advanced educational goal, but she is not fundamentally different from other reading program students, said coordinator Chill.

“When they come in the program, they see getting a job as a long-term goal. As their literacy improves their self confidence improves also and before long they're filling out job applications. “Eighty percent of the students are women,” Chill said.

Chill's 25 volunteers serve 50 students but 16 more have signed up. Some have been waiting for an entire year. In especially short supply are volunteers who will work at night, the only time many students have available.

She estimates that 20 percent of her students are illiterate in any language.

“The goal is to teach reading and writing to people who speak English, but who may not read it or write it,” she specified.

“The book does the teaching,” said Clark. “You're a guide. You don't have to be a teacher. All you have to have is patience and a willingness to help.”

And maybe hold a bottle.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

A K Smiley Public Library

Money runs out for Smiley Library's program for adults
Redlands Daily Facts: July 26, 2006 by Colleen Mensching

The writing is on the wall. Budget constraints are forcing the A.K. Smiley Public Library to close the book on its adult literacy program.

The library founded Redlands Reads in 2002 with a five-year grant from the state's California Literacy Campaign. Larry Burgess, library director, said he and other city officials knew all along that the California library board expected the city to support the program when the grant ran out.

"Five years ago, nobody anticipated this year's budget crisis with the General Fund," said Burgess.

During 2006-07 budget talks, Burgess told the City Council that he hadn't heard whether the state would continue to fund Redlands Reads. The program has a volunteer staff of about 40 and one paid coordinator. At the highest pay step, the coordinator position pays about $58,000 a year, plus benefits. Including program materials, Redlands Reads should have a budget of about $80,000, said Burgess.

"We might not need the total salary for continuing the literacy (position)," Burgess told the council in June.

As it turns out, the city wouldn't need to put up the coordinator's full salary - this year. But the state recently offered to pay the salary this year only if the city kicked in $10,000 and promised to foot the whole $80,000 bill in 2007, said Burgess.

Technically, the City Council has until Aug. 1 to decide whether to accept the grant and fund the program. But the council, which isn't scheduled to meet again until the state's deadline, approved the 2006-07 salary resolution at its last meeting.

The resolution doesn't include city funding for the Redlands Reads position.

"Certainly, if the library director thought there was a way to find that money in the library budget, we could add it back in (with an amendment to the resolution)," said Mayor Jon Harrison.

Harrison gave no indication that General Fund money could be dedicated to the program and Burgess has already said the library's allocation is stretched to its limits.

Even a generous benefactor can't save the program now, according to Burgess.

The issue isn't just $10,000 this year and $80,000 the next, he said. The community will always have literacy needs and there is no sustainable financial program to support them, said Burgess.

"The issue is now passed and we look to other ways that we might help with literacy. It won't be under the formal program of the grants," he said.

Justine Curley was the director of Redlands Reads from its inception until June 30, when the state grant funding her position ran out.

Curley said there was a tremendous amount of work involved in starting the program. She spent the first year of the grant setting up the program.

"We had nothing," she said.

Now the library has about 10 years' worth of literacy textbooks, said Curley. Curley ordered the books just in case Redlands Reads didn't survive the end of the state grant.

"If we had to, we could go to just a check-out basis," she said.

Without someone serving as the director of the program, however, there will be no one to supervise 40 volunteers, counsel students, match them with tutors and monitor their progress while supporting each pair's individualized learning track.

Could the program survive without a full-time director?

"I can't imagine how," said Curley.

Students speak: Frank, who asked that his last name be withheld, says that he "fell through the cracks" as a dyslexic child attending school in the 1950s and early 60s.

He did well for himself by working hard, making enough to pay the bills and even own a home. But he struggled against his illiteracy the entire time. He's proud of the work he's done at the Smiley library since joining Redlands Reads.

"I still consider myself illiterate but to be at zero level and to jump up to 3 or 4 is a great achievement for me as a person," said Frank.

Frank says he'd like to be able to sit and read a Sunday morning paper but he's got a more pressing concern.

"I've struggled with my driver's license for all these years. Next year I have to go take the test again and I'd like to be able to sit down and read the test and answer the questions," he said.

Carmen Hernandez was born in the United States but when her parents moved her to Mexico as a child it "stopped (her) experience with reading."

For Hernandez, a photographer with a love of history and architecture, the literacy program wasn't just an introduction to the written word. It was an introduction to Redlands.

"We were kind of traveling through time in the history of Redlands: the passion that people had for these orange trees, these palm trees, the architecture," said Hernandez, whose tutor used books about the city as part of the curriculum.

"When I read this history I understand why this place has this aura of health and wealth."

Literacy also helps citizens to understand and participate in the present, said Hernandez.

"I think when you talk about libraries and democracy - this makes sense to me. If you don't nurture your citizens and you let your education level go low, your society gets weak."

Hernandez is working on an essay about her experience of the city's history, which she will offer to the library.

For the past year, Linda Smith has watched the literacy program give her son back parts of his life that he lost in an accident.

In 2003, Casey Smith pulled over on Interstate 10 to help another driver who had crashed near the Cypress Avenue exit.

"A woman came off the freeway and hit him. She hit him on the right side and tore his leg off and threw him down the freeway. Doctors ended up amputating his leg and he had traumatic brain injuries," Casey's mother recalled.

After seven weeks in the intensive-care unit and three months in a coma, Casey was transferred to a longterm care facility, where he would have stayed if his family hadn't fought to get him into a rehabilitation setting.

Smith said she discovered that the Inland Empire doesn't have programs to help victims of traumatic brain injury regain skills like reading and writing. As a result, her son isn't the only traumatic brain injury patient in the Redlands Reads program.

Redlands Reads provided the kind of individualized attention that Casey couldn't get at an adult school or college, said Smith.

"When he first started he was not able to write hardly at all and he couldn't read. Now he can write very legibly. ... Now one of his favorite places is Barnes and Noble."

Casey, with the help of his tutor, Pete Zimmerman, has been working on a speech to present to middle school and high school students.

"My son wants to be a motivational speaker about the power of positive thinking. He believes that's what saved him," said Smith.

Casey may still be able to do that, in part because his tutor intends to keep working with him.

"I hope to continue in some capacity whether they continue the program or not," said Zimmerman. He said he expects other tutors will do the same. "These people are committed to making a difference."

But for illiterate members of the community who haven't yet established a relationship with a tutor, the future is uncertain.

"The volunteers need someone or some way of connecting with the people that need our services," said Zimmerman.

Gwen Wysocki: "Warning labels, medication - (literacy) affects so much in our life that I am baffled that the City Council, knowing how supportive they are of a number of programs, would not support this program."

"I think other communities are watching us and that when we make decisions we not only do it for us but to set an example for all communities that are struggling with the same decision."

Jill Robinson: "I really admire the students in the program. If you can imagine being an adult and admitting that you can't read well - I think the students in the program are very brave."

"They just believe that they can do things they didnt think they did before. I cant believe the city would not fund this program. The cost is so small in comparison (to other spending.)"

Trudy Waldron: "I just an unable to fathom that our City Council, with the intelligence that is represented there - either they don't understand scope of program or our financial situation must be in much more dire financial straits that the general public is aware of."
"One of our homework requirements is for our students to read with or to their parents on a daily basis. It has come to my attention more than once ... that parents cannot read to their students. ... Even (some) English-speaking parents dont feel comfortable helping their children read."

Pete Zimmerman: "This is really the only adult-oriented program in the Inland Empire."

"I think I've almost gotten more out of the program than I have given."

"Literacy is such an important think in today's society. Not to have that ability is incomprehensible."

"We're all volunteer tutors. There's nothing to stop us (from continuing to teach)."

Saturday, August 19, 2006

San Bernardino Public Library

Veteran cartoonist takes on new challenge
The Sun: August 12, 2006 by Michel Nolan,

An advocate for libraries and literacy, Phil Ortiz was among the participating cartoonists promoting literacy in children through the arts at last month's "Building a World of Readers, Artists and Dreamers" event at the Norman F. Feldheym Central Library in San Bernardino.

Phil Ortiz is surrounded by characters made of squiggly lines.

The Emmy Award-winning animator simply adds ink to bring them to life.

In his Lake Arrowhead home studio, Phil uses pen and ink or magic markers to transport characters from his imagination to paper.

Wild and wacky, disgruntled or droll, silly and irreverent, Phil's characters are born of his creative genius. His magic pen has worked under the auspices of such animation greats as Hanna-Barbera, Disney and Bongo Comics.

"Animation is something I've chased all my life," said Phil, a cartoonist for "The Simpsons" from 1989 to 1990. The main artist for Simpsons comics for more than 10 years, Phil is currently working on a Simpsons Christmas issue, "Springfield's Letters to Santa."

The 52-year-old's credits include work on Hanna-Barbera classics such as "The Flintstones," "The Smurfs," "Richie Rich" and "The Shmoo."

He earned three Emmys for character design on Jim Henson's "Muppet Babies" and worked on Bugs Bunny Sunday and daily comic strips and two Garfield primetime television specials.

He has designed nearly 100 Simpsons merchandise items and lectured throughout California, Mexico and Germany.

Over the decades, Phil's pen has created a galaxy of colorful characters, including Simpsons regulars Apu, Flanders, Ralph, Todd, Otto and Nelson.

Enter Pachuco Boy.

A new animated television show project, "The Adventures of Pachuco Boy," will be different in that the title character will be the first animated Latino superhero.

"It's a first. We're really excited about this project," Phil says. "Our expectations are that it will go to national prime-time television, and we'll start production this fall. We hope to air it in fall 2007."

Phil says he wants the project to be a positive reflection of Latinos.

As designer, developer and producer, Phil says the show is "Latino-friendly." The series will not use computer-generated graphics but instead will use two-dimensional animation.

Celebrity guest voices will help bring characters to life.

Stand-up comic and scriptwriter Michael Montijo created Pachuco Boy. Michael, who is Phil's partner, lives in Casa Grande, Ariz. The Hatchery's Margaret Loesch, an icon in the animation industry, is executive producer.

The original meaning of the word "pachuco" is flashy dresser, Phil says. The creative team hopes to redefine the derogatory term into an image that's more positive for Latino teens.

The "Pachuco Boy" cast will feature such characters as Eddie, Nana, Carmen, Chapo, Mr. and Mrs. Lopez, Chili, Ignacio, Gordo and Clown.

"I love to be drawing," says Phil, who long ago worked on sets for "West Side Story," the senior class play at Bishop Mora Salesian High School in East Los Angeles. "At that time I said my greatest ambition was to work for Hanna-Barbera or Disney and I fulfilled them both. I'm very blessed."

An advocate for libraries and literacy, Phil was among the participating cartoonists promoting literacy in children through the arts at last month's "Building a World of Readers, Artists and Dreamers" event at the Norman F. Feldheym Central Library in San Bernardino.

His efforts on behalf of children earned him a certificate of Special Congressional Recognition, presented to him by Assemblyman Joe Baca Jr., D-Rialto.

"I'm just a kid at heart," he says

Saturday, August 5, 2006

Covina Library - Volunteer Opportunities

Pat Sullivan:
San Gabriel Valley Tribune: August 2, 2006

Last week I told you about some programs at the Covina Public Library. This week let me tell you about some volunteer opportunities there.

The library has an After School Homework Center where students in at least grade eight with straight As may serve as a peer tutor if they are also on the school's honor toll.

For information on this position, which looks very good on a resume, call the children's librarian at (626) 967-3936.

Tutors are also needed in the literacy program at the library. There are three half-day weekend training sessions that you must attend before being assigned an adult student to work with.

This is a very rewarding volunteer opportunity. Lisa Valore can tell you all you need to know about it so call her at (626) 858-4553 or go online to

There are other jobs that need to be done at the library like shelving books and clerical chores. The Friends of the Covina Library could probably do with some help as well.

Volunteer applications can be picked up from the Circulation Desk any time you are at the library.

When I used to work at the Covina Public Library there was a doctor in town who never put his senior citizen patients in to physical therapy. He sent them to the library to shelve books.

If you have never shelved it is quite challenging in some ways and much more interesting than repetitive exercises at the gym. You push, pull, stretch, bend, squat, lift and make other movements that are actually a very good exercise that produces something worthwhile and a sense of satisfaction.

You also meet some very nice people in the library.

Try it, you might like it.

Friday, August 4, 2006

San Diego Public Library - Adult achievement, literally: Man, 54, learning to read and write

Adult achievement, literally: Man, 54, learning to read and writeSan Diego Union Tribune: July 31, 2006 by David E Graham

Library program pairs illiterate, literate adults

At age 52, John Berry had been a tile layer all his adult life when his company offered him a promotion, but it came with one requirement: He had to promise to learn to read and write.

He resisted, but his bosses at California Tile Co. in Clairemont insisted. So he set about to master those skills most Americans take for granted to assume the duties of an assistant supervisor, guiding crews in myriad indoor and outdoor tiling projects, filling out simple notes and even doing some billing.

“I was excited. . . . I didn't know what to expect,” Berry recalled of his first meeting in September 2004.

He soon realized, “I know this guy's going to help me.”

The two men of disparate backgrounds and means were matched as tutor and student through the San Diego Library's adult literacy program, which pairs hundreds of adults who read and write poorly with volunteer tutors, many working professionals.

As Berry sought a way to keep his word to his employer, someone gave him a pamphlet about the literacy program.

He makes the trip, usually from a work site, to the offices of Solomon, Ward, Seidenwurm & Smith, which occupy the 12th floor of the Wells Fargo Building and boast a commanding view of the bay, surrounded by skyscrapers and Balboa Park. Solomon, 74, is founding partner in the firm.

For one recent lesson, they met in a small, quiet room and for a time talked about spelling, going over a list of words Berry had written in pencil on a single sheet of yellow legal paper. He prefers a pencil, like one he held with a rounded lead tip and worn eraser, because mistakes are easier to correct.

“The eraser is my best friend,” Berry said.

Getting to work

The men open a workbook that has sentences to complete with the correct word, exercises in comparative and superlative adjectives, a page that broaches concepts of comparing and contrasting and another that deals with subject-verb agreement.
Berry struggles as he tries to pronounce a word he doesn't recognize.

“Take it slowly,” Solomon encourages.

Berry tries again, “Whu . . . Whu . . . ,” his mouth drawing rigid as he searches for the pronunciation, then says, “Oh God,” and in apparent frustration tilts his head back. The men work together a moment, and he pronounces the word: “What.”

He has difficulty, still, recognizing a few words starting with “wh”: what, when, where.
To not know why the men are here, one might imagine them thrown together by happenstance, like two people standing together on an airport escalator or catching the same elevator but for different errands on different floors.

Affable and earnest, Berry sits in blue jeans, scuffed, tan work boots and white shirt with his company's logo on the chest. Solomon wears gray dress slacks, a crisp white shirt, a dark tie and black dress shoes that would fit at the socials and fundraisers he attended when he was chairman of the board for the San Diego Symphony.

Solomon offers a succinct answer to why he tutors: “It gives me an opportunity, in a small way, to contribute to the solution of one our great social problems.”

Berry continues reading words from the workbook, haltingly, a few he recognizes then one he slows upon. He misses a word, but pronounces instead a word he knows that looks similar.

“You're guessing, aren't you?” Solomon interjects. “That's how he's gotten through his life. It looks like something.”

Getting by

Indeed, Berry has learned to recognize enough key words and symbols to get by, such as restroom signs. He took his DMV exam orally and memorized words to use in his work. Also, his work at grouting tile and setting up materials for a job involves numbers more than reading, he said, adding to its attraction. “There was very little reading in tile,” he said.

Berry, who has two adult daughters, communicates efficiently when he speaks and takes care of himself and his family. He just never mastered the mechanics of reading and writing: phonics – the sounding out of written words – as well as the rules of grammar and syntax and their nuances.

Guessing, and some pride, sometimes created difficult circumstances for him, such as a couple years ago when he leased a pickup truck without understanding the contract, with its extra fees for excessive mileage and for returning it early. He still is paying off a $13,000 debt the deal left him with. He wanted the truck so much he got it the same day, and when presented the contract, he couldn't understand it but just kept turning pages.

“I just skipped through it and pretended I was reading it,” Berry said. “I always did things myself. I hated to ask for help.”

Growing up in Chula Vista, he was thought to be a slow learner and was placed in some special eduction classes at Bonita Vista High School. He did not receive much encouragement at home.

He realized the way to move through school was to “keep my mouth shut.” He received a certificate of attendance.

In a situation in which it's apparent he can't read well, people often look disparagingly at him. “They think you're stupid,” he said.

It's clear he's not. He just has problems reading.

Berry and Solomon say he has progressed to about a fourth-or fifth-grade level on a journey that started, Berry notes, with his mastering the alphabet.

“I can read now for the first time in my life,” Berry said. “Now I'm reading.”

On the job, he reads short notes and road signs, whereas in the past he relied on landmarks for directions. But mostly his supervisory duties involve checking that work is done correctly and planning what will be needed for large projects, perhaps a condominium construction. More important, perhaps, he believes he can express himself better in meetings at work.

“When I walk into a job, I feel just a little bit different, a little more confident in myself,” Berry said.

Of Solomon, he says now, “He's like my dad.” Berry said the relationship has grown so that he even seeks advice during class on occasional personal problems. Solomon regards his efforts here as a way to help a single person.

And now that Berry's working his way up the reading ladder, he has some ambitions beyond reading a little at work.

“I want to sit and read a newspaper,” Berry said.

“Without knowledge, your world is black. You gotta have knowledge.”

After newspapers, some books.

“I want to sit in my chair and go around the world. You can travel around the world in books. I want to learn about the world.”

Photo: Herb Solomon (right) explained a rule of phonetics to John Berry, whom Solomon has been teaching to read and write for a year and a half. Since the offer two years ago, Berry, now 54, has driven twice a week to a downtown San Diego skyscraper, where he meets with attorney Herbert Solomon, who volunteers three hours a week to teach Berry to read.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Ventura Co Library - As easy as ABC?

As easy as ABC?VCReporter: July 20, 2006 by Stacey Wiebe

For one in four Americans, reading and writing is an almost insurmountable challenge. But, with the help of people like Neill Robinson, no one is without hope.

After Lucy Newman lost her baby, holding on to the maternity clothes she no longer needed was just another painful pinprick of constant, needling loss. When she went to the department store to return the clothes, she approached a woman she assumed was Mexican and, in Spanish, asked her for help.

“She goes ‘Excuse me? Where do we live?’ ” Lucy says from a chair in her Ventura home, where a pudgy Chihuahua named Princess is sealed to her lap like a barnacle. Though Lucy’s English is nearly perfect, her words are framed by a thick, Mexican accent. “She said, ‘We live in the United States. We have to speak English.’ She didn’t ask what I needed.”

Before Lucy, now 47, moved to the United States at 21, she didn’t know that the monolithic country to the north — the one that she now calls home — even existed. One of 12 children born and raised in Jalisco, Lucy was never enrolled in school and arrived on American soil unable to write Spanish and unable to speak and write English. “I didn’t know anything when I came to the United States,” she says. “It was like a dream. I never thought I was going to be here.”

Though Lucy eventually sought instruction and tutoring in English from the Ventura County Library Adult Literacy Program, her first decade in the United States was a struggle. When she needed a box of cereal, she would peruse the grocery store aisles in search of a box that matched the last one she bought. For her, it was all about color. The words on the boxes were mysterious, meaningless symbols.

“For the longest time in my life, I felt handicapped,” she says. Upon arriving in the United States, Lucy went to work in Oxnard for a friend for $40 a week and room and board, cooking, cleaning and caring for two little girls. Her mother remained in Mexico and her father, as he had done for many years, traveled back and forth between Mexico and the United States to work in the fields.

Lucy appealed to others to help her write letters to her mother. When she was about 23, she married Alfredo, a bilingual man who was born in Mexico but raised in the United States with his American-born mother. “I was begging Alfredo to please help me learn English,” Lucy says. “I told him, ‘I need you to stay with the kids so I can go to school.’ He said it was impossible for me. He didn’t even want me to learn how to drive. I had to learn myself.”

Lucy continued to beg Alfredo to let her attend school. “One day, I begged him to write a letter for me to my parents,” she says. “He said that the way you speak Spanish is the way that you write it — but I didn’t even know the alphabet.”

When Lucy’s eldest son was 5, she attempted to enroll him in kindergarten and struggled through an awkward conversation in which she was able to get her point across to the school’s secretary. “My surprise was like, ‘Oh, nobody speaks Spanish,’ ” she says. “All my friends spoke Spanish and it was just really hard.” It was then, at the age of 32 and after more than a decade in the United States, that Lucy decided she had to learn English.

Lucy eventually divorced Alfredo and married Jim Newman, a man she met while working as a janitor in Oxnard. It was he who encouraged her to take classes in English and, though he spoke no Spanish and she spoke no English, the recently divorced mother of two and the recently divorced electrician hit it off instantly.

“When I met Jim, a lot of times we would go to the dictionary,” Lucy says with a grin. “He was asking me questions and I didn’t know how to answer back … My father-in-law says, ‘When we first met you, you wouldn’t start talking. Now, you can’t stop talking.’” Before finally being able to speak English with confidence, Lucy went through various phases of understanding. For a time, she could understand but not speak English and still struggles with reading and writing in English — but is determined to keep learning.

“If I had the chance when I was growing up to go to school, I could be somebody,” she says. “It didn’t happen — but I’ll take advantage of what I can now.”

It is hard to imagine that Lucy — vibrant, excited and full of mile-a-minute words — was ever at a loss for them. She wed Jim 16 years ago and the pair have two children — a boy and a girl, ages 15 and 11. The two children from Lucy’s previous marriage, another son and daughter, are 21 and 19. In the 16 years since Lucy began studying English, she has been embraced by staff at the Ventura County Library Adult Literacy Program, where she was first tutored by a woman named Joyce Miller, who has since passed away, and Neill Robinson, who has been her tutor for the past few years.

Though she credits her husband with encouraging her to learn and become literate in English, it’s unlikely there is anyone who sings Lucy’s praises more loudly than Robinson, an AmeriCorps volunteer with the adult literacy program who is clearly inspired by his pupil’s progress.

As an AmeriCorps volunteer, Robinson, who retired four years ago after working for the Southern Bell Corp. for 34 years, is one of about 70,000 Americans in a network of service programs that help fulfill the nation’s needs in education, public safety, health and the environment. He meets with Lucy on Wednesday nights, after she attends Bible study.

“She’s one of our best advocates,” Robinson says of Lucy. “I feel fortunate to be able to work with her. That’s why I went into retirement early — to be able to help others with their challenges.”

Robinson’s eyes tear up as he speaks of Lucy’s success. He describes her as “assertive, smart and with it” and adds, “She has no problem with self esteem at all.” He considers her success in a statewide contest for those learning to read and write a phenomenal accomplishment. Lucy wrote a letter to Anne Frank, about whom she and Robinson had been reading, and placed in the contest over countless other entries. “She didn’t have a clue about anything,” Robinson says. “She wouldn’t even talk on the phone — but look at her now.”

Square one

Lucy isn’t unlike most people who make their way through the door of the Ventura County Library Adult Literacy Program.

Carol Chapman, manager of the program, notes that, while many might guess that the county’s illiterate population is comprised of mostly Spanish speakers from Mexico, the truth is that they hail from all over the globe.

Close to 25 percent are Spanish speakers, but only 14 percent are from Mexico; others are natives of Nicaragua, Argentina, China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Taiwan and various European countries. Still, one of the most common myths about illiteracy is that it isn’t as prevalent among people born in the United States. Last year, Chapman said, 54 percent of illiterate subjects who utilized the program were American-born.

“One in every four adults is illiterate,” Chapman says. “That’s the statistic. If you were at a concert and every fourth person stood up? That’s a lot of people.”

For the illiterate, finding the strength to ask for help can be a crippling challenge. While some simply aren’t aware of the resources that exist, some are too embarrassed, ashamed or afraid to reach out. Additionally, if those people are “getting by,” they might not feel there’s enough need to make the effort. “There are people who can’t do some of the things they want to do — like read to their grandchildren,” Robinson says, “but they own their own businesses because they get help from their spouses.”

Chapman and Robinson know many stories about how the seemingly inconsequential things in life can make or break an average day for someone who cannot read. Illiteracy can strain any relationship — be it marital, parent-child, sibling or friendship — in which one person must rely heavily on another and, Robinson says, “That’s a situation where, if you were married and got divorced, it would ruin your life.”

It can seem inexplicable that anyone born and raised in the United States is illiterate, but, Chapman says, it’s easier to fall through the educational cracks than one might guess. Many of the program’s students can read at a third- or fourth-grade level, but “the leap to multi-syllable words was never made.”

The Ventura County Library Adult Literacy Program, with sites in Ventura, Simi Valley, Camarillo, the California Youth Authority and both county jails, offers free one-on-one tutoring for English-speaking adults, which includes English-language learners who can communicate well enough in English to receive tutoring; the Families for Literacy program, which offers free tutoring for adults with children under 5 and who need help getting those children prepared for school; and the English Language Literacy program, for immigrant families with children enrolled in kindergarten through 12th grade. It’s Chapman’s hope that the program will be awarded a grant to fund instruction for adults regardless of whether they have school-aged children.

The program, which is 21 years old, currently serves about 200 people in the one-on-one tutoring alone.

If you were to stroll into any of the program’s tutoring sites and take a glance around the room to guess who are the students and who are the teachers among the pairs of people huddled together, well, you’d have a hard time of it. Some of the students arrive straight from work, dressed smartly in business wear. Some look like soccer moms. Some drive to distant tutoring sites to make sure they won’t bump into anyone they know.

It can be hardest for the average American raised speaking and writing English to seek the help that is needed. “Your person learning English has a very good excuse to seek tutoring,” Chapman says. “They don’t have to be ashamed, and the shame that goes along with being illiterate is awful for people.”

Expectations and pressures can exacerbate the shame to the point that some must take action to achieve the freedom they crave, but others continue to avoid the subject altogether. “People get tired of hearing, ‘Read to your children, read to your children,’ ” Chapman says. “Well, they can’t read to their kids and it makes them feel terrible.”

Back to the drawing board

The bottom line is that literacy doesn’t have as much to do with intelligence as is commonly believed.

While Chapman and Robinson — and Lucy, for that matter — admit that learning to read and write as an adult can be much more challenging than it is for children, adults bring life experience and a broad range of knowledge to the table. “Parts of it are harder and parts of it are easier — but the nice thing about working with adults is, they have experience and they have vocabulary. When you’re tutoring a child, you have to create that knowledge.”

The first three years of a child’s development are critical, and the first seven are optimal for squeezing in the greatest amount of that critical knowledge, says Chapman, who explains that the building blocks for literacy begin younger than we might guess. Chapman recently observed that 13 students from a class of 30 kindergartners didn’t know colors or numbers and that many kindergartners the following year didn’t know colors, numbers or body parts — in Spanish or English. Standard interplay between adults and babies usually includes the teaching, at the very least, of body parts. Some of the first words babies learn are the names for their facial features and extremities. “If someone played with you as a baby, or if you watched someone else play with a baby, you know what to do.”

The increasing use of TV as a “babysitter,” paired with a lack of interaction with parents, could be precursors to a lack of general knowledge by the time a child reaches school age. “The television doesn’t teach language,” Chapman, a former teacher, says. “Language has to be reciprocal.”

With lack of stimulation on the home front, kids who are already behind often slide through the cracks in school because they don’t get any help at home. If such children also have one or more learning disabilities, they fall behind even more quickly. “So many kids are bright but have a visual perception problem or an auditory perception problem,” says Chapman.

Such was likely the case with the late, great golfer George Archer — who kept his illiteracy a secret from everyone but his wife and daughters over the course of his stellar career. Archer had a difficult childhood and what his wife describes as a “mental block” about reading, but she also told the San Francisco Chronicle that he’d likely be diagnosed today with “severe dyslexia and a nonverbal learning disability.” Still, he was gifted with a great spatial intelligence that made him a natural on the golf course. Archer is widely regarded as one of the best putters in PGA tour history.

“We’re all disabled in that none of us know anything perfectly,” says Robinson, who explains that differences in learning styles are largely responsible for the damaging stigma surrounding illiteracy.

Two children with the same intelligence quotient may receive identical scores on an I.Q. test, but one of the children may take twice as long to finish the test. It simply takes some people a little longer to grasp concepts because of their individual comprehension processes. Some people grasp concepts quickly by listening to a lecture, while others have to take notes or watch videos before the ideas fully sink in. It’s also widely believed that most people have stronger skills in either math or language arts. It’s true, Chapman says, that a lot of people have a knack for one set of skills or the other, but differences in learning styles can make all the difference in some cases.

Students with forms of delayed auditory perception are always at least a couple of minutes behind everyone else in class. Those minutes add up quickly and can lead to illiteracy. “Up to a point, it’s about strengths and weaknesses,” Chapman says. “If I was judged on baseball, I would be the most learning disabled person on the planet.”

Strengths and weaknesses are individual qualities that don’t interfere with life in the classroom, while learning disabilities make for constant struggle.

In one-on-one tutoring, tutors like Robinson can focus on learning disabilities and the weaknesses of students. “We can pick up on the pattern of the kind of mistake being made and focus on the one thing that would make the most difference,” Robinson says.

In addition to his work with Lucy, Robinson and his wife, Mary, a preschool teacher, entertain and educate little ones through the literacy program’s family-based programming. The pair act as minstrels and participate in sing alongs with the children. “It gets the kids involved in singing and storytelling,” he says, “but a lot of times the parents are with them. We also target the adults.”

“Low-literate parents, if they don’t have the skill of reading, don’t know what to do to get their kids ready for school,” Chapman says. “Our goal is teaching the parents.”


Lucy had to take a break from tutoring sessions when she was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 35. It’s hard to imagine her, so outspoken and crackling with health, knocked out by illness. But she came back — and she’s been in the literacy program, off and on, for about 12 years.

She became a citizen and took college courses in Spanish and computer literacy. “They’re pushing me for my GED [General Education Development],” she says with a wide grin. “I’m a little behind because I have to do math.” Despite whatever challenges may lie ahead, for Lucy — a woman who had never attended a day of school in her life — the race is already won. “Now I can read a recipe, cook with a recipe,” she says. “I feel so good. I don’t feel handicapped anymore. It’s like I was blind and now I can see. It’s like a new world. For me, it’s something wonderful.”

Lucy credits Miller and Robinson for their encouragement. “One of the things Joyce told me was, ‘Lucy, you are learning a lot. You may not think so, but you are.’ And that’s also what Neill tells me.”

Miller once brought Lucy an article about a 105-year-old man who learned to read late in life and eventually wrote a book about his experiences. Lucy may decide to do the same. “Learning makes you a better person,” she says. “I have had a very interesting life — and I have learned a lot of things.”

Photo: Robinson sings to a group of kids as part of the Ventura County Library Adult Literacy Program.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

San Bernardino Public Library

Cartoonists coming to town to boost literacy
San Bernardino County Sun: July 13, 2006 by Michel Nolan

Cartoonist Phil Yeh hopes to draw a crowd this weekend at San Bernardino's Norman F. Feldheym Central Library. Yeh is creator of the befuddled Patrick Rabbit and a menagerie of witty dinosaurs and other wise and wonderful critters.

He is also a passionate children's literacy advocate.

The 51-year-old Santa Maria resident, president of Cartoonists Across America, channels his high energy into inspiring kids to read. Cartoonists Across America will promote literacy and the arts by painting colorful murals on the San Bernardino Public Library's truck and van Saturday and Sunday.

The weekend event calls for famous artists to work side by side with local kids. Everyone is invited to participate.

Library vehicles will be transformed into giant works of mobile art. It'll take several famous artists to make the Van Gogh.

Yeh (pronounced yeah) is the catalyst for the event, "Building a World of Readers, Artists and Dreamers," set for 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days. Most artists will appear at Saturday's festivities.

"The whole idea is to use cartoons and humor to show kids that reading can be fun," says Yeh, who has penned 86 books.

Wearing his trademark battered cowboy hat, the artist has covered more than 1 million miles, crisscrossing the United States, Europe and Asia with his cartoonist cohorts, encouraging kids to love books.

It is Yeh's thought that cartoons can be used to actually inspire people of all ages to read. The artists that comprise the Cartoonists Across America and the World organization have toured the globe, painting more than 1,500 colorful murals, speaking at schools, libraries, museums and conferences.

"I've talked to presidents' wives, governors and mayors, and they've all told me they read comics when they first started reading. They would read Superman or Archie comics and then progress to books," Yeh says.

"I want us to make San Bernardino a city of readers and let other cities catch up to San Bernardino. I'm here to help that happen," says Yeh, adding that he'd like to issue a challenge.

"I'd like to challenge famous people to step up for the kids. If this event is successful, why can't writers, artists, actors, musicians, directors, cartoonists stop in San Bernardino on the way to Las Vegas or Palm Springs? They could stop at the library and talk to people about their craft. It could change a young person's life."

Lead artists Yeh and Klaus Leven will be joined by "The Simpsons" cartoonist, Phil Ortiz of Lake Arrowhead.

"Kids have different tastes but they need to find some sort of reading source to spark or jump-start their interest in reading," says Ortiz, who revealed he will be painting his favorite Simpsons character on the van.

"I've painted murals in the past," Ortiz says. "Cartooning animation is something I've chased all my life."

The weekend event also includes family fun with children's authors, live entertainment, food, local celebrities and a remote broadcast by KOLA-FM (99.9). Live entertainment includes an appearance by the Inland Empire 66ers dancers and mascot.

Local bands Live Unity, Deluge and Dionysos will play a musical mix from hip-hop to new age.

Other event artists include George Gladir, Archie comics writer and creator of "Sabrina the Teenage Witch," and Matt Lorentz, artist for Tony Hawk and No Fear product line, as well as Jim Gilbert, host of "Cartoon Factory."

Authors and cartoonists will speak or participate in presentations in the library's Bing Wong Auditorium throughout the day. They also will be selling and autographing their books and comics in the lobby. Cartoonists Across America will give out free comics. The City of Readers will give out free books.

Yeh's book, "Theo the Dinosaur," is a story for all ages, a kid-friendly tale told in a series of colorful cartoon oil paintings that have been shown in galleries across the country. The book is filled with prehistoric and pithy admonitions pearls like "Read, Rock and Recycle. Avoid Extinction."

Yeh believes that taking comic books away from kids has contributed to illiteracy.

"With no comic books, you're not offering kids the natural progression before they start to read chapter books," he says. "The pictures help them if they don't understand the words."

Even beyond literacy, the young-adult coordinator for the library, Linda Adams, says the event is also aimed at stemming the tide of violence in the community.

Adams recalls former Police Chief Garrett Zimmon's quote about how difficult it is to hold a gun in your hand while holding a book.

"An event like this motivates and encourages kids to be creative and get out and do something they're interested in," Adams says.

"In reality, the library is not just about books, but the whole world of music, art and culture. It's positive and creative."

For more information about Cartoonists Across America, call (805) 928-4603, or visit

Friday, June 30, 2006

Monrovia Library - Authors Fair A Success Story for Monrovia

Authors Fair A Success Story for Monrovia
Arcadia Weekly: June 5, 2006 by Liset Marquez

Despite the heat Monrovians and book readers alike came out to enjoy the Author and Community Service Fair at Library Park that was presented by the Monrovia Library and Mystic Sisters Bookstore.

One of the real crowd pleasers was pro wrestling star and author, Diamond Dallas Page who was the keynote speaker.

Page who showed off his world heavy weight title during his speech emphasized the importance of reading. At the age of 30, Page told the crowd he had a third grade reading level and as a child he battled ADD and dyslexia.

Page told the crowd he was determined to read a book so he broke it down into goals was able to complete the book in a year. He is now the author of two books.

Melanie Goodyear, Literacy coordinator at Monrovia Library, said Page was a real inspiration to the entire audience.

"As a former pro wrestler he definitely put on a good show, he got everybody excited and he was really inspirational," she said. "A lot of our adult learners were here in the audience and they all walked up him and gave him a hug afterwards."

Goodyear said the adult learners shared their experiences with him.

"His theory is that 10 percent of what happens to you in life is other external stuff you can't control. The other 90 percent is what make of it," Goodyear

FAIR said. "It's about how he's overcome his adversity in life by controlling what he thinks, having positive relationships and being physically fit."

Goodyear said Page's message helps promote the adult literacy program the Monrovia library operates, which is the only one in the surrounding cities.

But Page's message was just one of many expressed by the more than 20 authors that spoke at the fair.

Abel Flores of Azusa sat in on an inspirational panel discussion and said it was nice that the authors were there to talk about their books.

"You actually figure out what they're thinking when they were writing the book," he said.

Tina Carey, owner of Mystic Sisters, said the fair is a fundraiser for the library with a percentage of sales of the books going towards the Monrovia Library.

She said that she started talking with the library about creating an author fair in February. The bookstore also hosts two other fairs, one in Duarte, and Diamond Bar.

"When you're doing it for the first time you always want more people but it takes time to build roots," Carey said.

Both Goodyear and Carey said there is discussion to make the fair an annual event. Carey said one thing she would love to see is more children engaged in the event.

"We partnered with the library to get out the message- to the community- what resources it has to offer," she said.

Carey said that she opened her bookstore, which is located down the street from the library, with intentions for the authors to connect with the readers.

"Part of the purpose of the bookstore is to create a community," she said.

Carey said it is obvious that the library needs funding.

"It's such an interesting time, Monrovia Library needs funds to be expanded," she said.

Carey said she hopes events like the fair could help strengthen support for the friends of the library club.

San Diego Public Library - READ/San Diego Receives National Award from American Library Association

San Diego Public Library
Monday, June 19, 2006

Library’s Adult Literacy Program Receives National Award
from American Library Association

SAN DIEGO – READ/San Diego, the City of San Diego Public Library’s adult literacy program, has been chosen by the American Library Association to receive the prestigious Advancement of Literacy Award. READ/San Diego is a free adult and family literacy for adults 18 years of age and older.

“I am extremely pleased that the American Library Association has recognized READ/San Diego for its accomplishments in improving literacy,” said City Library Director Anna Tatár. “Library staff and volunteers have helped make this program a national model.”

Established in 1984, the Advancement of Literacy Award honors a publisher, bookseller, hardware and/or software dealer, foundation or similar group that has made a significant contribution to the advancement of adult literacy. Criteria used for judging nominations include amount of support given to libraries for literacy projects, evidence of long-term commitment to literacy, and encouragement provided to other groups to undertake similar activity. A plaque will be awarded at the American Library Association’s annual conference, held this year from June 22-28 in New Orleans. The awards event is sponsored by The Library Journal.

Recent past recipients of the Advancement of Literacy Award include Verizon Foundation (2005); Elizabeth Fischer, Subrata De and Tom Brokaw of “Dateline NBC,” NBC News (2004); Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities (2003); Center for Literacy, Philadelphia (2002); The Providence Journal (2001); Starbucks Foundation (2000); Lila Wallace, Reader’s Digest Fund and Mount Clemens Rotary Club (co-winners) (1999).

READ/San Diego began in 1988 with seed funding by the California State Library. Staffed by literacy professionals, the adult literacy program coordinates the efforts of volunteer reading tutors and cooperates with local adult schools, community colleges and other literacy education providers in making and receiving student referrals. Each year, the program assists more than 1,000 adult learners from various backgrounds and learning levels.

In 2004, READ/San Diego was named one of the top community partnerships in the nation by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Vocational and Adult Education.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Monrovia Library - Literacy Program Aimed At All Ages Holds Fiesta Fundraiser

Literacy Program Aimed At All Ages Holds Fiesta Fundraiser
Arcadia Weekly: May 8, 2006 by Jennifer MacDonald

Monrovia Reads hosted the second annual "Cinco de Mayo" themed fundraiser at the Krikorian Movie Theatre on Monday, May 1.

About 150 residents, city leaders and school staff attended the event, which raised about $7,000 through entrance, alcohol and raffle ticket sales. This is one of two major fundraisers that helps to fund the organization. The other is the Spaghetti Western themed event held in the October.

The "low-key" affair took place in the upstairs of the movie theatre where guests socialized over margaritas, "taquitos" and guacamole, all the while raising money for the grassroots organization aimed at increasing literacy among children, teens and adults.

"Monrovia is responsive to literacy programs and anything that involves supporting our youth," said Joanne Spring, president of Monrovia Reads.

The group funds and organizes a variety of literacy programs.

One program is the literacy van, which is like a mobile library. It goes to places in the community and hosts a story time with themes and activities that targets children of all ages. The van will soon hold books for adults who can't get to the library.

For newborns to high school students, book giveaways are performed many times a year to encourage reading.

"One goal is to make sure every child entering school has a personal library of five books," said Monrovia Mayor Rob Hammond, who helped come up with the idea for the organization. "When you read you can learn and when you can learn you can succeed."

There is also a minigrant program that provides teachers a set of books for their students to keep and use for class.

"Read Across Monrovia" is another program aimed at elementary school students, which brings in adults who are residents, city leaders or from businesses in the community to read to classes.

Another prog ram helps cover the costs for the 40 tutors in the school district.

One-on-one sessions are held at the library to teach adults to read.

There is also a large adult education program held at the Monrovia Adult School that teaches English as second as language and adult literacy programs.

The idea for Monrovia Reads was originally hatched by representatives from the Chamber of Commerce, city council and Monrovia Unified School District six years ago during brainstorming sessions to discuss how the community could address literacy.

"It was done so we have an entity that focuses on our community being 100 percent literate," said Hammond.

The organization received a $500,000 state funded grant when it was started which ended last August. Now, the group relies on its two fundraisers and individual donations to continue to operate.

Linda Proctor, city clerk for the city, described how she has seen the difference these programs make in the city.

"I see adults looking for help that were too embarrassed to look for help before," she said while munching on a chips and salsa. "I see kids that are ready for school."

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Orange Co Library - Literacy groups teach with dignity

Literacy groups teach with dignityOrange County Register: April 26, 2006

Dear Abby: I have been dating a nice guy for two years. We started out as good friends and the relationship progressed from there. He's truly all that you could ask for. My dilemma is, he doesn't know how to read and write.

This is a very sensitive subject for him. He is 33 years old and works as a custodian for the school district. He earns a fraction over minimum wage and is making child-support payments.

I have been very patient with him, but any time I raise the subject of his going back to school, we end up arguing. Now he has decided to take a part-time job in the evenings - so there will definitely be no time for school. What am I to do? He thinks my pushing him to learn to read and write is about the money. It's not! He keeps saying he's leaving his reading and writing "in God's hands." How can I help him? - Wits' End in Miami

Dear Wits' End: Your boyfriend's unwillingness to reach out for help may stem from embarrassment. Please explain to him that there are programs especially for people like him, and that they are easy to access. All you have to do is call your county library and tell the librarian you are looking for a referral to a literacy coalition so your friend can learn to read. Your friend will be treated with dignity, I promise.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Orange Co Library - READ/Orange County Anaheim volunteer gets presidential honor

Anaheim volunteer gets presidential honor
Orange County Register: April 20, 2006 by Sarah Tully

Anaheim resident Linda Kricfalusi won the President's Volunteer Service Award for volunteering 520 hours as a literacy tutor, her organization announced today.

Last year, about 20,000 people nationwide were given the award, sponsored by the Points of Light Foundation and a top honor tied to the White House.
Kricfalusi, who volunteers and serves as a board member for READ/Orange County, is being recognized as part of National Volunteer Week, which starts Sunday.

Winners receive a signed letter from the president, a certificate and a lapel pin.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

San Diego Public Library - 50 People To Watch in 2006

50 People To Watch in 2006
San Diego Magazine: April 2006

As director of READ/ San Diego, Valerie Hardie oversees the San Diego Public Library system's innovative literacy program, which has been nationally recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

READ is acclaimed for its successful strategies to improve language skills among the estimated 422,000 adults in San Diego County who cannot read and write well enough to get along in the business world-or even meet their own daily needs. Hardie's challenge in the coming year: to weather San Diego's worsening budget crisis and likely cutbacks in library funding while maintaining READ's excellent scorecard

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Huntington Beach Library - Literacy Program Helps Newcomers Improve Their English

Literacy Program Helps Newcomers Improve Their English
Pacific News: March 29, 2006 by Josie Cabiglio

Immigrants to the United States often take ESL to learn to speak, yet for many, it isn’t enough. Finishing those English as a Second Language courses, some find out they cannot read or write as well as they should to get a job or to connect to fluent sons and daughters.

In other cases, even people born and raised in the U.S. do not master these skills they need to succeed. In fact, studies show that one-fifth of our adult population lack the reading capability to cope successfully as workers, parents and citizens, yet low-cost or free help is within reach.

Enter literacy.

Thanks to nearly 1,200 affiliates of ProLiteracy America, tutoring is available in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, offering one-on-one service by trained individuals.

Since it began in 1984, the Literacy Volunteers program at Huntington Beach’s Public Library in California alone has helped nearly 5,000 people — both American-born and newcomers from such countries as Vietnam, China, Mexico and Japan. Through the years, participants have worked with about 4,500 tutors, at times gathering in two-hour weekly sessions. There’s no charge; it’s confidential and personalized.

Another two-hour session Thursday mornings focuses on conversation, led by Caroline Fuelling. Here, Vietnamese students join in, building on what they picked up from the tutoring side. They debate cultural differences and current events, along with problems they faced, say, the previous week at the office, said Anna Combs, a literacy specialist and assistant to Rose Saylin, who runs the program.

Some mothers and fathers who go to the center have youngsters who “are pretty fluent and the parents feel lost. They want to help with homework, but can’t,” Combs said. “Kids can be very critical. Or they are embarrassed,” pushing the adults to want to improve even more, she said.

“Women come here, especially Asians, who worked hard all their lives” and once in this country, still “put food on the table and their children through college. Now they feel, ‘It’s my turn,’ “ she noted.

To qualify for most of the tutoring, students must have some proficiency in English as these are not ESL sessions, Combs said. And for the Huntington Beach program, attendees also must live or work in or near the city. They will be taught by men and women completing at least one 15-hour training session before being matched to their charges.

Only two months after taking the sessions in Huntington Beach, Hai Nguyen, who settled in the U.S. just two years ago, can honestly say his English has advanced greatly and that he feels more confident speaking, reading and writing, inspired by his tutor, Karen Kliem. READ MORE

Give A Giftof reading and writing to adult learners in
California library literacy programs from Santa Barbara to San Diego

Tuesday, April 4, 2006

Burbank Library - Not a trivial matter: The 10th Annual Trivia Challenge

Not a trivial matter: The 10th Annual Trivia Challenge
Burbank Leader: April 1, 2006 by Lauren Hilgers

The annual Trivia Challenge hosted by the Burbank Public Library does not discriminate. It aims to stump actors, artists, businessmen and librarians alike.

"I thought it was a trivial contest," joked Gary Lamb of Burbank's Shakespeare at Play. "I know lots of trivial things."

Soon Lamb would sweat it out with the rest of the contestants onstage, his team losing their first point by mispronouncing the Garfield character 'Odie' as 'Obie'.
The contest pitted groups of three against each other -- each team is asked one question each round and two wrong answers are enough to eliminate you from the competition.

"It's nerve-racking," admitted Shauna Vaughn, a member of the team representing the Boys and Girls Club. "I still remember the question I got out on last year."

Questions throughout the night included, "What kind of animal is the Cheetos mascot?" and "What kind of meat is used in Moussaka?"

"I watched quiz shows to prepare myself," said Jim Schendel, also of Shakespeare at Play.

The event, which drew 24 teams from organizations across Burbank, is in it's 10th year. Each year the library funnels the money from ticket purchases, team registration fees and a concurrent silent auction into their literacy program.

"This is not only to raise money, but to help get the word out," explained Sharon Cohen, library services director. "We have a really successful literacy program -- but it's something you can't really put out flier or posters for because you're looking for people who can't read."

The program, which started in 1992, provides one-on-one tutoring to adults who for one reason or another never learned to read.

"It's something that, if you can read, you take for granted," Cohen said. "Admitting that you don't read is not an easy thing either."

One of the students in the program, Jerry Washington, attested to the program's effectiveness.

"When I first arrived I was having trouble reading the daily newspapers and handling my own affairs," he said. "I know a lot of people who can't read."
Washington has spent a year in the program and is now working toward getting his GED.

By the end of the night, the Burbank City Employee's Assn. took home the trophy for their trivia knowledge, unseating last year's champions, the Burbank Noon Kiwanis.

Cohen hoped everyone involved in the event left a little smarter. "It's not just a fundraising event, it's educational," she laughed. "You learn lots of trivial information."

Those interested in becoming a volunteer tutor at the Burbank Public Library's literacy program can call (818) 238-5577.

Photo: Trivia Challenge 2006 was held at the Castaway Restaurant, Thursday, an annual event to benefit Burbank Public Library Literacy Services. (L-R) Jack O'Neill, Tony Potter, Gary Lamb, and Jim Schendel.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Burbank Library - Words of Wisdom in Burbank

Words of Wisdom in BurbankDaily News of Los Angeles: March 8, 2006 by Rick Coca

Anna Nelson, a volunteer tutor with the Burbank Adult Literacy program, had been warned at orientation that many of the people she and her fellow volunteers would teach would view reading as a chore - not a pleasurable pastime.

Typically, students signed up for the program because they didn't want to lose a job that required reading, got sick of taking an oral driver's license test or wanted to help their children do homework.

They weren't there because they wanted to cozy up in front of the fireplace with a good book.

So after months of working with a student who had very little reading skills coming into the program, Nelson, a retired school nurse and Burbank resident, was ecstatic to learn that the woman had stated in a curriculum report that she enjoyed reading.

``It was Christmas all over again,'' Nelson said. ``(I) wanted my learner to learn how to read and enjoy it, and she is.''

William S. Byrne has been literacy coordinator for the program since 1998. The program is largely state-funded and open to English-speaking adults 18 and over with an eighth-grade or lower reading level. The program is ongoing and pairs about 30 students and volunteer teachers.

The volunteers undergo a 15-hour workshop to prepare them to teach the students. They then meet with the students once or twice a week for a minimum of six months.

Byrne said the students come from all walks of life, encompassing a cross section of society. Typically, students are in their 30s.

``That's when the adults are finding out they need to do something about this problem,'' Byrne said.

Many come in with low self-esteem, thinking that they're not intelligent.

``Most of them have a lot of other good skills, like memory,'' Byrne said. ``(Their illiteracy is) something they've hidden for decades.''

While many students see reading as a means to an end, through the Families for Literacy program the library helps foster a culture of reading within the learners' families. The program is designed for adult learners with children under 5 years of age. The families attend a traditional story hour in which books are read to the children. Crafts and dinner are also provided, and the children go home with free books.

``Traditionally, if the moms and dads don't read well, the kids are probably going to struggle just as much,'' Byrne said.

The program also encourages the adults to use the resources and programs the library offers to help their children become skilled and enthusiastic readers.

Byrne said that many of the graduates of the literacy program go on to earn college certificates for their jobs and vocational licenses in real estate and nursing.

Volunteer teacher Nelson said a year ago she and her student started with the alphabet and the sounds of vowels and consonants.

``It's like laying bricks,'' Nelson said. ``Pretty soon there's a word that she can identify and read. And pretty soon there's a sentence that she can read. It's amazing. You're building your own little wall there - or a mansion.''

Nelson's student has since taken and completed two computer classes.

``She's a bright person,'' Nelson said. ``She missed out on some things because she couldn't read.''

Nelson explained how far her student has come in just a year.

``She's reading her computer manuals, so that's pretty high,'' Nelson said.

On March 30, Burbank Literacy Services will will hold its 10th anniversary fundraising Trivia Challenge at Castaway restaurant, with proceeds going toward its various literacy programs. To purchase tickets to the event, which will also include a silent auction and door prizes, or to inquire about the literacy program, call (818) 238-5577.