People take the ability to read and write for granted, assuming everyone can, but the evidence suggests that it shouldn’t be.
Twenty percent of Yolo County is considered functionally illiterate, according to the Yolo County Library Services and Facilities Master Plan 2002 to 2006.
The Yolo County Public Library website defines this as an adult who “cannot read and write sufficiently to carry out day-to-day activities at work and home.“
Communities utilize adult literacy programs to combat this problem and the Yolo County Library’s Yolo Reads Program is one such service catering to this need.
Yolo Reads is provided through the Yolo County Public Library and has provided services to aspiring learners in the area for two years. Prior to the establishment of Yolo Reads, many adults could only seek assistance through the Woodland Public Library literacy program, which has been in existence for 25 years.
Woodland Public Library Literacy Services Literacy Coordinator Sue Bigalow credits this expansion to the fact that the Woodland Public Library literacy program was being spread too thin. Bigalow said that while the Woodland Public Library works with mostly inner-city learners, Yolo Reads is intended to focus more on the rural population.
Yolo Reads provides tutoring services to the area’s English speaking learners ages sixteen and over who are not concurrently enrolled in high school. The program is grant-funded by the California State Library, so services are free of charge to participants.
Both learners and their assigned tutors must make a six-month commitment to the program, and at the six month mark they have a progress review. Learners receive free materials to cover this time period, access to Yolo County Library collections and free computer use.
Upon starting with Yolo Reads, learners are often assessed before being assigned a tutor so that their individual needs might better be addressed.
The Yolo Reads Program website states that learners can meet with their tutor up to twice a week for one-and-a-half to two hour sessions.
According to Yolo County Library Specialist for Adult Literacy, Heather Bratt, this one-on-one tutoring approach is designed to meet the specific goals of the learner.
“They may want to work on anything from resume skills to specific job skills,” Bratt said. “We had one learner whose goal was to be able to write letters to her husband in Iraq.“
Yolo Reads tutors are volunteers from the community that are of various ages and backgrounds, including UC Davis affiliates.
“[The tutors] have been UC Davis graduates, or UC Davis personnel from about every department you can imagine,” Bratt said.
Yolo Reads tutors must be over 18 years-old, willing to commit at least six months, and interested in building a relationship with an adult learner.
Retired UC Davis organic chemistry professor Dr. Joyce Takahashi currently serves as a tutor and has taught several learners through the Woodland Public Library Literacy Program.
Takahashi said she has found her experience as a tutor rewarding, and a job reminiscent of one of her favorite parts of teaching UC Davis students.
“I taught for 33 years and my favorite part of teaching was the one-on-one aspect,” Takahashi said. “I loved it when students came to office hours.“
Takahashi described the tutor matching process.
“First of all, the students take tests to determine the levels of their skills. The coordinators match the skill levels and personalities of the students with the backgrounds and personalities of the tutors.“
Bratt said Yolo Reads currently has around twenty tutors but they always encourage new volunteers to help the cause.
“To be able to provide these one-on-one services is of great benefit to our community,“ she said.
Visit yolocounty.org/Index.aspx?page=1444 for more information.
AMANDA HARDWICK can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.