Friday, May 26, 2017

[Solano County] Solano adult literacy program earns praise, but relies ‘too much’ on written word

FAIRFIELD — The Solano County grand jury has high praise for the Library Adult Literacy Program.
“The 2016-17 Solano County grand jury found that the county Library Adult Literacy Program has undertaken a valuable and much-needed service in our community and should be commended for its efforts,” the report released in early April states.
Then the grand jury tossed in a bit of a curve. The report recommends the literacy program “explore additional communication options which do not involve reading.”
The odd concept linked to a literacy program was not meant to be directed at the teaching methodology, but rather as a broader approach to attracting more adults to the program.
“The Solano County Library Adult Literacy Program relies mostly on written communication to reach illiterate adults,” the report points out, following up with the recommendation to use such things as speakers at organization events – such as Parent-Teacher Association meetings, and community and neighborhood gatherings.
The grand jury suggested the program also could increase its visibility with booths at sporting activities and countywide festivals, as well as placing pictorial posters at transportation hubs, make public service announcements and better utilize social media.
It also noted in a separate recommendation to review promotional material and make sure it is placed on the library website.
Bonnie Katz, director of library services, said she was pleased with the report, adding it is always valuable to have another set of eyes on the program. She also thought the grand jury’s thoughts on outreach efforts were on point and offered good suggestions.
“I think our literacy program is well-respected in our community,” Katz said.
What was most clear in the grand jury report was the opinion that the Library Adult Literacy Program is essential, linking the need to improve these skills and higher educational standards as critical to fighting poverty and crime.
“Targeting adult illiteracy is critical as it empowers a person’s ability to provide life skill tools in overcoming poverty and sustaining a self-worth attitude,” the report states.
“Thirty percent of adults with household incomes at or below the federal poverty line do not have a high school credential. . . . Seventy-five percent of the inmates in the California justice system did not finish high school or are classified as having low literacy,” the report states.
Moreover, children of illiterate parents are “twice as likely to also be illiterate,” the report states.
In addition to varying its outreach to adults who could benefit from the program, the grand jury also recommends increasing the number of volunteer tutors by working with senior organizations and residential communities, as well as reaching out to nonprofits, churches, area employers and service groups.
The grand jury also suggests “working with local colleges to create volunteer/intern programs.”
The final recommendation is to expand “the peer support mentor program to interface with prospective and existing students on a regular basis.” The report states there is only one mentor at this time. Katz said efforts have already started on this area.
The report notes that volunteers express enthusiasm about their experiences working in the program.
The grand jury also points out that the library makes an effort to follow up with the participants by implementing a tracking system to follow student and program success.
The literacy program was initiated in 1994 and has served more than 6,200 adults who wanted to improve their reading or writing skills.
Katz said the participants who have come through the program do so for many, many reasons.
“Some of them want to help their children in school, some want to help their grandchildren,” Katz said. “Some want to pass the citizenship test.”
May 18, 2017
Fairfield Daily Republic
By Todd R. Hansen

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