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10 Resources Against Illiteracy

Range of Institutions Tackles Reading Problems

October 01, 1987|JANE MAYER and JUDITH JACOVITZ | Mayer and Jacovitz are Tarzana-based writers. and

The people who need the information in this article cannot get it directly.

Because they live behind the barrier of illiteracy, the flow of printed information to them is always controlled by others--those who can read.

Chances are you know at least one of the 23 million illiterate Americans: the mother who can't read the word poison on a bottle; the father who can't help his child with third-grade homework; the high school graduate who can't read a job application.

According to authorities, illiteracy sometimes can be traced to brain or perceptual dysfunctions. However, more often, its victims simply failed to learn to read and write in school, they say.

Many illiterates, burdened by guilt or shame, keep their deficiency a secret. Juanita Stanley, executive director of California Literary Inc., says: "Somewhere along the way, they become ashamed to admit, 'I don't know how.' So in desperation, they start faking it. One day, though, it gets too hard to go on. That's the crisis point at which many seek help."

Stanley's group is a nonprofit, statewide organization formed 30 years ago. California Literacy sets up sites and trains volunteer tutors in the phonics-oriented Laubach Literacy Method.

In Southern California, the organization has 21 literacy councils with 100 centers (including some of the facilities listed below). A spokesman said the group can provide referrals for people with reading problems and for reading teachers seeking to affiliate with an institution. Call (818) 282-2196.

Referrals are also available from the Los Angeles County Public Library, (800) 372-6641, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday. It can provide names and telephone numbers of literacy agencies from San Diego to Ventura County.

Here's a sampler of resources in the effort against illiteracy.

The Assn. of Educational Therapists, (818) 344-4712, can provide referrals to about 450 educational therapists. Association members are trained in special education to identify people with learning disabilities and to teach them academic skills for independent living. A spokesperson said each therapist sets his or her own fees.

One of the association's therapists, Barbara Bennett of Santa Monica, (213) 394-7369, says: "I've dealt with successful people who depended on others to do their reading. But they became tired of skating on such thin ice."

Like many of her colleagues, Bennett uses in-depth testing to assess a new client's skills. Personal interests are noted and an individual program is designed. For example, one film producer used movie scripts to practice reading.

California Conservation Corps, 1530 Capitol Ave., Sacramento. Although the primary purpose of this state program for people 18 through 23 is protection of the natural environment, members are also required to attend academic classes. Indeed, says Susanne Levitsky, corps public information officer in Sacramento, "Many enlist for the academic program."

Students spend several nights a week in the free classes, which offer academic studies or career-development training. A spokesman said that although the classes deal with a number of subjects, an important objective of the program is to develop reading and writing skills.

For additional information about the program and the locations of its facilities, call (800) 952-5627.

Computer Technology/Special Education/Rehabilitation Conference, Oct. 15-17, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Student Union at Cal State Northridge, 18111 Nordhoff St., Northridge. In part, the public conference will deal with programs designed to help computer users with all types of disabilities, including reading problems, and to help others assist illiterate friends or family members ranging from children to the elderly. Discussions and other activities at this third annual conference will address the reading issue. The fee for the event, sponsored by the university's Office of Disabled Student Services, is $120. Call (818) 885-2578.

Glendale YWCA, 735 E. Lexington Drive, Glendale, (818) 242-4155; South Valley Unit of the YWCA of Los Angeles, 5703 Laurel Canyon Blvd., North Hollywood, (818) 766-1903.

The Glendale YWCA's reading-and-writing program, administered by the Glendale YWCA

Literacy Council, offers individualized tutoring for people 21 and over. Class scheduling is arranged for the convenience of the student and tutor, with a minimum of 1 1/2 hours required each week. The only charge is for materials.

Joan Davis of the Glendale YWCA Literacy Council said: "Non-readers often feel they are the only ones with the problem; they are relieved to find they are not alone."

Leanor Nickel, council treasurer, added that a class for tutors in reading and English as a second language is forming.

Mariam Hasan, director of the South Valley YWCA branch, said the unit's literacy program uses 35 tutors to teach slightly more than 40 students, age 21 and over. She added that younger people sometimes are accepted after special consultation.

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