Friday, September 29, 2006

Ventura County Library

Bicyclists to ride for literacy program Rotary services will also benefit
Ventura 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 http://www.harvestrideforliteracy.org/.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Hemet Public Library

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 Public Library

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.