Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Carlsbad Public Library

It's never too late to learn how to read
North County Times
: Oct 15, 2007 by Agnes Herman

Many of us always have a book on hand; others are avid newspaper readers. But some of us can enjoy neither books nor papers. There are many who have never learned to read or, as a result, to write. An adult who cannot enjoy a magazine or book, write a note to a friend, e-mail a grandchild or read the cooking instruction on an oatmeal box, can be humiliated and painted into a corner with poor self esteem!

Recently, I spent an hour with Les Jenkins, 62, at his home in Oceanside. Les has been a meat cutter since 1969, with two years' time out in the Vietnam War. Now semiretired and on the brink of full retirement, Les goes to work 40 hours a month.

Les is a quiet, well-mannered gentleman who speaks with enthusiasm, gestures with ease and looks you straight in the eye when he speaks. It was not always that way. He was "pushed" (his term) through school (in California) and graduated after numerous summer school sessions, with grades he would not brag about. And through it all, he had never learned to read and write. Unbelievable, but true.

Three years ago, a grocery strike became his blessing in disguise. He knew that at the end of the strike there would be papers to file; he had never before filled out an application. So he used his free time and determination to visit the Carlsbad Adult Literacy Program; perhaps there he would find help. And he did!

Les explained that he was ashamed, believed he was stupid; he was often called just that. He had married and had four children, all of whom have achieved worthy goals. Only this week, a tutor at the Center helped Les use the computer to watch his Coast Guard son perform a heroic rescue.

"I missed all that! When they were growing up, I could not even read to my kids. My wife did it all. Now I have 6 1/2 grandkids and want to read to them and e-mail to them!"

Les never told anyone about his learning problem. When he was assigned a tutor, he confessed to his children. They and his friends have offered him full support. They are proud of him, admiring the step he was taking at age 62. He works with a tutor twice a week and is learning to use the computer that his son bought for him.

In 2005, Les applied to and was accepted by the Henry Huffman Leadership Institute because of his dedication to the Adult Learning Program and his desire to reach out to others with the learning disability. At the Institute he learned to use gestures, make eye contact with an audience, to communicate. Clearly he learned those lessons well.

Carrie Scott, who brought Les to my attention, is the Interim Literacy Coordinator of the Adult Learning Program at Carlsbad City Library. It is an arm of the California Libraries Literacy Services that is dedicated to helping English-speaking adults improve their reading and writing skills. Adult learners meet with their personal tutors twice weekly for 90 minutes. Three-fourths of the tutors are over 40; three-fourths of the learners are over 40. One is never too old. About 70 pairs of dedicated volunteers and eager learners work together each week.

Tutors are screened and trained. Those interested in becoming tutors should contact Carrie Scott (760 434-29) whose staff provides a 90-minute orientation session. For those whose interest is captured, a three-hour training is required.

Adult learners should also contact the program in Carlsbad and, if the program is appropriate, attend an orientation session and a private interview. Finally, tutor and learner are matched, and when they begin to work, a staff member is available for coaching. If the program does not fit an applicant, Carrie and her team are prepared to make a worthy referral to another learning center in the area.

Les was enthusiastic about his tutors. They have taught him to write stories, to put words together properly in sentences. He is delighted with the computer skills he is learning, a dream fulfilled. Life is better. "I am dedicated to learn in order to raise my self-esteem, and it is working."

Tell your friends!

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