Gov. Jerry Brown proclaimed September as Adult Literacy Awareness Month. San Luis Obispo’s Mayor Jan Marx and our county’s Board of Supervisors did the same.
What do these proclamations mean? Is there tangible significance to the beautiful certificates that will be nicely framed and then hung to adorn our office’s walls? In my opinion, yes, there is huge significance in any act or statement that brings awareness to an issue that is often ignored, not given credence and frequently labeled as a negative character trait. The issue is that many adults in the world, in the U.S.A., in the state of California and right here in San Luis Obispo County do not have the basic skills necessary in order to read and write effectively.
The Literacy Council for San Luis Obispo County, founded in 1982, is the county’s vehicle to serve our community members who need to either learn how to read and write (and sometimes speak) English, or who need to improve those skills; 17 percent of our county’s population 16 and older are at the very lowest literacy levels.
As a partner with the San Luis Obispo County Libraries, the Literacy Council is the California State Library Literacy Service for our area. These partnerships support our work through yearly grants and gratis use of space. Together with all of California’s literacy programs, we celebrate our 30th anniversary as a California State Library Literacy Service.
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We celebrate by shouting our thanks to the hundreds of community members who are volunteer tutors in our organization. There would not be an organization without them. We recruit and train them. We are available to answer questions and help solve problems. We give them the books, materials and supplies that they need to do the work. We find space for them to work in. However, they, the volunteers, do the vital work. They devote hundreds of hours per year to work one on one with an adult who does not have basic literacy skills.
Tutors help their learners set and meet individual literacy learning goals. One learner’s goal might be to finally complete high school equivalency certification. Another might set the goal of learning our alphabet because his or her language does not have a written language. The tutor learner pairs are matched by yet again another set of dedicated volunteers. These special volunteers take on the responsibility to manage our centers, keep records and provide us with important information so that we can track learning progress and provide accurate reports to our funding entities.
Our volunteer board of directors oversees that best practice is maintained. Thank you volunteers for your keen awareness of adult literacy challenges in San Luis Obispo County.