Saturday, December 30, 2006

Los Angeles Public Library

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 clich├ęs, 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 www.lapl.org/literacy or call (213)228-7037. Volunteers receive seven hours of instruction and must commit to six months of tutoring.

Friday, December 1, 2006

Hemet Public Library

THE GIFT OF READING
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