CARLSBAD —“Low literacy costs this country more than $225 billion each year in workforce non productivity and the loss of tax revenue due to unemployment,” Heather Pizzuto, library & cultural arts director, said.
In California, 4.5 million people cannot read above a fourth-grade level, Pizzuto said.
The Carlsbad City Library Learning Center is trying to change that with the literacy program, which celebrated its 30th anniversary earlier this month.
“The program is not just a worthy cause, but a necessary service,” Carrie Scott, community outreach supervisor for the library, said.
At any time the free program has between 70 and 80 pairs of tutors and learners.
Volunteers and learners must agree to an hour and a half of service, twice a week for a minimum of six months.
Scott said there’s no shortage of volunteers or learners although matching up people’s schedules can be a problem. The larger the pool of volunteers and learners, Scott said, the easier it will be to match people.
Another issue the program faces is getting the word out to the people who need it the most, Scott said.
“You don’t know who might struggle with reading and writing in their lives,” Scott said, “which is why it’s so important to get the word out.”
A lot of learners hear about the program through word of mouth.
Nyla Henry is an adult learner who heard about the program from her boss and said the program has greatly impacted her.
“This program has given me a new life,” Henry said. “I still have challenges but I have tools to help me work through them and overcome them.”
The demographic of the adult learners varies greatly, as do their goals, said Scott.
The adult learners work towards a specific goal. Some people aim to read more eloquently to their children and some people may be trying to keep up with changing software at their work, among other goals.
Over the 26 years Scott has been involved with the program, she has seen more men volunteer as tutors.
Currently, about 25 percent of the volunteers are male. Scott attributes this to a national growing trend of men volunteering. She also thinks that the involvement of computers has sparked the interest of men.
The project is fully funded by the city and receives additional funds from the California Library Literacy Program.
Adult learners receive free books, pencils and other material, as part of the program.
Scott credits city leaders for recognizing the program’s importance.
“The ability to read well is the primary indicator as to whether someone will be a productive citizen or spend most of the time in our prison system,” Mayor Pro Tem Mark Packard said earlier this month.
The Council proclaimed September 2014 as Adult Literacy Awareness month to raise awareness and thank the volunteers who donate 11,000 hours annually to the program, Packard said.
People interested in volunteering or learning can stop by the Learning Center at 3368 Eureka Place or email [email protected].