I AM HONORED TO BE ABLE TO INTRODUCE YOU TO the real faces of literacy.
You've heard or read the statistics. All the "cold facts" about the literacy problem in California--the staggering percentage of the population that is "functionally illiterate"--are real. The attached social ills affect us all. Maybe you've even heard of the problems we will face as a nation before the turn of the century because of our increasingly illiterate workforce.
Now you have a chance to meet some of the lucky ones: those who are not a part of the literacy problem but a part of the literacy solution. They are wonderful people, some of whom I have been privileged to meet in my years in literacy work: the volunteers and the students whose lives have been changed by their commitment to literacy.
As your(you?) read their stories, you may recognize yourself or someone you know, someone whose life can benefit from involvement in literacy.
Ours is a country built on community activity and helping your neighbor. The era of the quilting bee and the barn raising may be gone, but you can give another kind of help, a gift just as important as warmth and shelter. Old-fashioned as it sounds, you too can help your neighbor.
This is a job in which anyone can participate. There is a place for you in literacy--all you need is a measure of caring. I've met so many special people in this work. I think of Cass Lawson, the record keeper for many years for the San Diego Literacy Council. Although she had terminal cancer, she worked tirelessly. We all saw her at the national conference walking with two canes, her spirit and drive exhilarating her own life and that of all around her.
Here is your opportunity to share in your community. You can truly make it a better place to live, for yourself, your business and for the generations that follow. There is a spirit of immortality in having helped to create a better world, for yourself and your fellow men and women. I can promise that you will get the spirit. It's contagious!
You do not need special skills to become a volunteer in literacy. Some of the most exciting stories I have heard are from volunteers who had never been involved in community service before coming to literacy.
There are many ways you can participate. If you want to tutor, you will be trained in a series of easily followed sessions that will give you the skills to teach the most "school-a-phobic" new reader. You can help that person find the greatest gift of all, the gift of self-esteem.
But your local literacy group does not only need tutors. They can use your expertise in management, advertising, public relations, fund raising, clerical, bookkeeping or advocacy. Whatever your background, whatever your skills, your local literacy program needs you. And once you get involved, you may wonder how you did without this satisfaction in your life.
I urge you to call your local literacy program or your local library, or call us, California Literacy, at (818) 282-2196. California Literacy can refer you to your closest volunteer group, be it ours, the library's, Literacy Volunteers of America or the Los Angeles Times Reading Lab. We are all doing the same work: bringing together those in need of service with those willing to help on a volunteer basis.
The stories in today's special literacy supplement to the Times will tellyou why you should get involved. It may be the most satisfying work you will do in your life.
California Literacy, Inc.