Anita Ornelas concentrated on the image before her, chin resting in her palm as she considered a single letter on the computer screen: B.
“This word has a 'bah' sound,” a computerized voice chimed.
Although she was born in the United States and speaks fluent English, Ornelas never learned to read or write, for decades relying on her husband to convey directions and instructions.
The longtime Escondido resident dropped out of high school in her junior year to raise her first child. When her husband died three years ago, routine tasks became exceedingly difficult.
“Now, here I am all by myself,” Ornelas, 54, said. “Everything was on him.”
Ornelas is one of many North County residents taking advantage of the Escondido Public Library's literacy services program, which expanded last month to include three computer-based literacy labs at its East Valley branch. The labs are designed to encourage adults and families to work independently on literacy-based activities.
The adult lab is equipped with software that assists with keyboarding, reading and writing skills. Two children's labs are geared to help preschool-age children prepare for school; they have worksheets and exercises to study at home.
Ornelas discovered the program this year out of frustration. Unable to read bus schedules to get around town, she walked into the Escondido Public Library's main branch, pleading for help.
Robin Parker, the library's Families for Literacy coordinator, said the labs allow people who can't take adult education courses because of work schedules or parenting obligations to squeeze in study time when it is convenient.
“Learners come to us from very different backgrounds,” Parker said. “(Some) can have a very good conversation with you in English, but they would have a hard time with job applications or writing a résumé.
The labs include a section where textbooks and study guides can be checked out for up to two months.
Tutors and staff members also are trying to dispel misconceptions about the way children grasp language concepts.
“Parents get a lot of mixed messages,” Parker said. “Some of them think that reading to your child is literally sitting there and reading the book and then that's it. They don't really know how to engage the children. Some parents (who) . . . can't read in English don't read to their children because they don't want to mess up their ability to learn English.”
However, reading to children in any language is valuable, Parker said.
“They're instilling a love for reading and reading books in any language,” she said. READ ON
Escondido library literacy labs
11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays
East Valley Community Center, 2245 E. Valley Parkway, Escondido
Information: (760) 839-4272