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 Public Library

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 www.covinaliteracy.org

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

READ/San Diego

Adult achievement, literally: Man, 54, learning to read and write
San 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.