By Ann Leonard and Martha Kennedy, Adult Literacy Advisory Committee Members
Adults who ask for help with reading and writing have enormous courage. The Redlands Adult Literacy Program provides a safe place for adults to work one-on-one with compassionate volunteer tutors to improve their literacy. There are many reasons why adults want to improve their literacy. In some instances, their education was interrupted by family circumstances, others found that current job demands require them to improve their literacy levels, and others want to help their children with schoolwork and enhance communication with their children’s teachers. Every adult who enters the adult literacy program has goals that they want to achieve.
Zaida Maytorena is a custodian for a local school district where, thanks to her hard work with her tutor, she is now able to read and write emails for work. She joined the literacy program two years ago when higher literacy skills became essential at her job. She works with her tutor weekly and has read several books, published three stories in the adult literacy anthologies, and improved her confidence. She is on the road to achieving her dream of becoming a certified nursing assistant. Zaida shares, “I’m so happy to stay here, learning with my teacher. I hope others come to join this program. Before coming here, I had problems understanding what I read. I also learned to write reports for my work, and I felt proud when I impressed the vice principal because I could write!”
An estimated 20% of adults in California lack proficiency in reading and writing. In 1992 the California Library Literacy Services (CLLS) was established to “help reduce the high level of illiteracy in California and connect more Californians to their libraries.” The Friends of A.K. Smiley Public Library, who recognized that adult literacy is a critical predictor of employment, health, and civic participation, supported and encouraged the work of volunteers Katherine Gifford and Trudy Waldron to re-establish the Redlands Adult Literacy Program in 2010. In 2014, the Redlands City Council confirmed their support of adult literacy by funding a literacy coordinator. Diane Shimota, the current adult literacy coordinator, has been essential in making the program sustainable and expanding it to include computer literacy, family literacy, book clubs, anthologies, remote learning, and writing programs.
Diane connects a myriad of statewide and local efforts. She actively participates in CLLS network conversations with literacy coordinators throughout the state to share strategies for programming that enable adult learners to achieve their goals. In addition, she connects with local organizations like the YMCA and Redlands Community Center to provide additional tutoring locations and support to adult learners. She coordinates with the Adult School and Crafton Hills College to ensure that the adult literacy services augment the opportunities at other educational institutions. Thanks to Diane’s efforts of talking to service groups about the value of the Redlands Adult Literacy Program and bringing learners with her to share their stories, service groups like Friends of A.K. Smiley Public Library, Redlands Area Interfaith Council, American Association of University Women, Redlands Charitable Resources Coalition, Redlands Community Foundation, and others have supported the program with generous contributions.
The Redlands Adult Literacy Program depends on four key components: volunteer tutors, local donors, library trustees, and Diane’s dedicated leadership. From its inception, volunteers have stepped forward to help adults improve their reading and writing. Many of these volunteers later say that they have received the gift of working with and learning from adult learners. Local donations provide a vital match to CLLS funding and, more importantly, are a statement of local support, allowing the Redlands Adult Literacy Program to provide a full range of services and materials. The library trustees commit space, staff resources, and vision to ensure that the adult literacy services are available today and in the future. Diane commits countless hours to ensure adult literacy services are available to the entire community and has developed a robust, compassionate, and innovative program that is responsive to the challenges adult learners face in these rapidly changing times. The city of Redlands and its residents are fortunate to have such a capable and dedicated leader.
The demand for tutors is increasing and the Redlands Adult Literacy Program is seeking more volunteers. Would you like to help someone learn to read and write? Consider attending and encouraging someone you know to come to the next volunteer tutor orientation scheduled for Wednesday, March 22 at 6:00 p.m. in the Library Assembly Room. If you have questions or plan to attend the tutor orientation, please call Diane Shimota at (909) 798-7565 ext. 4138, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you know of individuals who need help in reading and writing, please encourage them to take the first step in changing their lives by contacting Diane Shimota. All literacy services are free and confidential.