Camarena Memorial Library To Increase Among Non-Literate Latino Adults Selected to Pilot Spanish Literacy Course Across California
Desert Review: 7.20.2016
The Camarena Memorial Library has been selected as one of nine libraries across California to join a pilot program – LeamosTM (Let’s Read) @ the Library. Centro Latino for Literacy (Centro Latino), a nonprofit organization headquartered in Los Angeles, launched the project to bring its online literacy course to the state’s non-literate Spanish speakers, which number 573,866 (2009-2011 ACS, PERE pooled file). The two-year pilot project is supported by a grant awarded by the James Irvine Foundation to Centro Latino to explore partnerships with public libraries. Greg Lucas, California State Librarian said, “In a state which gained a Latino plurality [in 2014], it seems at a minimum good common sense to encourage programs like Leamos. Without literacy skills in their native language, proficiency in English becomes significantly harder, if not impossible, to attain.”
Public libraries will incorporate the use of Leamos™ as an effective strategy to both promote reading at its most basic level and to effectively outreach to Spanish-speakers in their communities. “Leamos @ the Library is the portal for non-literate Spanish speakers to close both the basic and digital literacy gaps and to increase civic engagement,” stated AnaMaria Ruiz, Centro Latino Board Liaison, pointing out that a key initiative of the James Irvine Foundation is to increase civic engagement. “Learning to read and write is ground zero. Many students have described learning to read and write as being able to see after a lifetime of being blind – ‘Ya tengo ojos (Now I have eyes)’”.
Library literacy staff involved with the Southern California Library Literacy Network (SCLLN) have encountered this need in their communities, but have lacked the resources to address it.
Meanwhile, Centro Latino for Literacy (Centro Latino) has been teaching basic literacy skills to Spanish speakers since 1991 and in 2004 transferred its course to an online platform to make it available beyond its Los Angeles classrooms. Now operating as a social enterprise, Centro Latino licenses its proprietary LeamosTM (Let's Read) Basic online course to workforce development organizations, parent engagement groups, community colleges, public libraries and more. In March 2015 the James Irvine Foundation awarded a two-year grant to Centro Latino to deepen its impact statewide; Centro Latino chose to focus this effort on partnerships with public libraries. They have recruited five libraries for year one of the project (Roseville, Salinas, Santa Barbara, Riverside, and Covina), and the library systems which already partner with Centro Latino will also participate in this project to bring the broadest possible perspectives and learning experiences together. The five libraries currently involved are: Azusa, Los Angeles County-Huntington Park branch, Los Angeles City Library, Huntington Beach, and Anaheim. Together these ten libraries will pilot using Leamos Basic as a tool for public libraries to teach literacy skills to Spanish speakers and their experience will be documented and guide an additional ten California libraries to provide Spanish literacy in their communities in year two of the Irvine grant.
SCLLN has designed this LSTA proposal as a companion piece to leverage the James Irvine Foundation award to Centro Latino to strengthen its focus on public libraries as a community anchor – a “zocalo” (public square) familiar to Latin America immigrants.