Almanac

Community - December 14, 2011

Holiday Fund: Importance of literacy in tough economic times

By Roberta Roth, literacy outreach specialist, and Andrea Herz, founding president and current board member of Literacy Partners.

You who are reading this article are presumably not finding it to be a challenge. Unfortunately, this is not true for 15 percent of the adults in our community. That is why Project Read-Menlo Park exists, to increase functional literacy in adults to enable them to improve their lives and those of their families, and to increasingly contribute to their community.

Indeed, in these times it has never been more important to reach out to those in our community who struggle with basic literacy. During an economic downturn, those who are able to read and complete job applications, obtain driver's licenses, and otherwise comprehend the information associated with their work, will be employable.

Kelly, an adult student with Project Read, describes the impact of increased literacy in his life. "Without Project Read-Menlo Park, I wouldn't have my chauffer's license. I wouldn't have my job. I wouldn't be a citizen of the United States, and I wouldn't understand what I'm voting for. I am very grateful for all of these things."

Project Read, which has been providing free adult and family literacy education for over 25 years, currently has over 80 adult students in its tutoring program and English as a Second Language classes. These adults not only increase their literacy, including computer literacy, but also apply their increased knowledge and confidence at home, raising a new generation of readers and strengthening families.

Azucena, an adult atudent and Belle Haven resident, explains: "Learning English has helped me create good communication and a good relationship with my daughters. I feel confident when I talk with them. At this point, I know my English is improving."

While Project Read focuses on adults, it is also home to our Families for Literacy (FFL) program for pre-school children and their parents. A recent storytime at the Belle Haven Community School Family Center attracted 21 children and 10 parents. In addition to the monthly storytime, FFL provides arts and crafts activities, nutritious snacks, and a book for each child's home library.

Individuals and groups can get involved with Project Read by becoming a one-to-one tutor, volunteering in our computer lab, referring employees who want to improve their English skills, or volunteering for special events.

Project Read-Menlo Park relies on support from individuals, local businesses, foundations, the Friends of the Menlo Park Library and government. In 2010, a nonprofit arm, Project Read-Menlo Park Literacy Partners, was established to increase our funding base and ensure sustainable funding for the future.

Visit projectreadmenlopark.org or the Menlo Park Library, 800 Alma St., or call (650) 330-2525 for more information.

Gifts to the Holiday Fund benefit Project Read-Menlo Park and nine other community-service organizations.

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