California Library Literacy Services Celebrates 30th

This month, California Library Literacy Services, a program of the California State Library, celebrates 30 years of changing the lives of low-literate adults and their families. Since its inception, California’s Library Literacy Services has helped nearly a quarter of a million Californians learn to read and write.

To mark the 30th anniversary milestone of this volunteer-based program, the state is launching “Together, California Reads,” a month-long awareness campaign to encourage communities to support the efforts of their local public libraries in raising adult literacy rates statewide.

Locally, the Library Literacy Center will have a display in mid-September, featuring literacy activities in the lobby of the Visalia Branch Library. The center also will be hosting a reception for the public on Wednesday, September 24, from 6 to 7:30pm in the Blue Room of the library.

The U.S. Department of Education’s National Assessment of Adult Literacy found that nearly 25% of California adults lack basic literacy skills, meaning they can’t read a newspaper, a bedtime story to a child or the instructions on a bottle of medicine. Based on the state’s current population, as many as 4.5 million Californians over the age of 18 read below fourth grade levels. In Tulare County, as many as 32% adults lack basic literacy skills.

Low adult literacy contributes to major socio-economic challenges, with a high percentage of prison inmates and those living in poverty testing at the lowest literacy levels. The children of low-literate parents often are not read to and have few books in the home, leading to future generations of low-literate adults. According to ProLiteracy, low adult literacy creates a detrimental cycle that is estimated to cost the U.S. more than $225 billion each year in workforce non-productivity and loss of tax revenue due to unemployment.

Last year, California public libraries provided services at 558 locations to 21,192 adult learners through nearly 10,700 volunteers generating over 500,000 hours of service. Working with their volunteer tutors, California adult learners achieved significant literacy goals. Last year, 72% of those who set goals were able to share a book with their child and 65% were able to help their children with their homework. Sixty-five percent were able to complete a job application and 57% wrote their own resume.

“What’s awesome is the magic that happens when learners and tutors come together,” said Carla Lehn, California Library Literacy Services program coordinator. “Not only is the learner’s life changed for the better but so is the volunteer, even though they may be giving just a couple of hours a week.”

Inspirational stories about California adult learners and their volunteer tutors, as well as a complete statewide listing of public library events celebrating 30 years of California’s Library Literacy Services, can be found at For social media updates and other announcements regarding California’s adult literacy issues, follow the CLLS twitter handle @CalReads (#CalReads).

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