On June 3, 2023, Assembly Majority Leader Eloise Gomez Reyes honored the Friends of A.K. Smiley Public Library (Friends) as one of the 2023 Non-Profits of the Year for Assembly District 50. The honor was awarded to the Friends for their support of the Redlands Adult Literacy Program. Since 2006 the Friends have co-sponsored and supported the Redlands Adult Literacy Program. This sponsorship was initiated when Smiley Library abruptly closed its grant-supported Adult Literacy Program due to the lack of local matching funds. Adult learners and their tutors sought support from the Friends.
In 2011 the Friends Board adopted a resolution which recognizes that adult literacy is of vital importance to the economic and social fabric of Redlands. The Friends consider the Adult Literacy Program one of its essential missions and promote adult literacy through public outreach and financial support. The Friends assist the literacy coordinator in reaching out to the community, forming new partnerships, and receiving grants and donations. A Friends-Library-city-state partnership has led to an expanded Adult Literacy Program which includes: family literacy, computer classes, anthology publications, book groups, leadership classes, and more.
Friends volunteers help raise funds for Library programs, such as the children and teen summer reading programs, Library programs, and the Adult Literacy Program. The Friends raise monies through memberships, bookstore sales, special sales, auctions, and private donations. Private donations directed to adult literacy are used as matching funds for literacy grants, events, and materials.
The Friends always seek new opportunities to reach out to the community. One volunteer highlighted her recent involvement at the Redlands Saturday Market, where she and other Friends volunteers shared information about the adult literacy program and the Library. She was amazed that many people did not know about A.K. Smiley Public Library or the Adult Literacy Program. Through this outreach, more than eight people volunteered to become literacy tutors.
Kim Green, a Friends board member, volunteer tutor, and Adult Literacy computer class instructor, shared: Volunteering as a tutor with the Adult Literacy Program led me to become involved with the Friends of the Library, and I’m very proud of what both organizations provide to the Redlands community. As a volunteer tutor, I have witnessed firsthand the life-changing power learning to read holds. What most of us take for granted – being able to understand job applications or driver license tests, helping our children with their homework, reading signs and menus – is a daunting if not impossible challenge for more than 20 percent of our community. The Adult Literacy Program is comprised of people of all ages and cultural and ethnic backgrounds, bound by the common belief that the ability to read, write, and communicate is imperative for connecting with our families, community, and world. I am incredibly proud to live where the powerful skill of literacy is available to anyone who expresses their interest and willingness to commit to the work necessary.
The Friends, literacy staff, and adult literacy volunteers witness the life-changing impact of adult literacy as adult learners reach their goals of obtaining new or better jobs, pursing their own education, helping their children with schoolwork, navigating medical decisions, volunteering in the community, earning their citizenship, and gaining self-esteem.
The Adult Literacy Program needs more volunteers to help adults improve their reading and writing skills. Please consider attending the next tutor orientation scheduled for August 22, 2023. If you have any questions or would like to attend the orientation, please contact Diane Shimota, Adult Literacy Coordinator, at 909.798.7565, ext. 4109 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
If you know someone who needs literacy services, please ask them to contact Diane Shimota. All literacy services are free and confidential. Training, materials, and ongoing support are provided. As many literacy volunteers say, “This is the best volunteer opportunity in Redlands!”