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Insider Article [February 2013] [02/05/13] (The Literacy Community thanks CLA!)
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The Literacy Community thanks CLA!

Adult learner Martha S.
Adult learner Kyle A. with his tutor, Cheryl McKeon

Thanks to CLA, the California literacy community begins 2013 with hope and optimism. Our CLA-paid lobbyists, Mike Dillon and Christina DiCaro, were successful in restoring $4.7 million in funding for libraries and literacy to the 2012/2013 state budget. This was a Herculean task, given that libraries and literacy had been eliminated as a line item in the 2011/2012 state budget.

Literacy programs statewide received $2.82 million of the $4.7 million that was restored. While $2.82 million is approximately 38% less than the last time we received state money (2010/2011), it is considerably more than the $0 we received in 2011/2012. In these challenging economic times, this is an enormous victory for CLA and for literacy!!

We have this victory through the hard work, professionalism, know-how, and tenacity of our lobbyists and CLA representatives. Not to mention the hundreds of letters written by the literacy community to our legislators and the compelling testimony of literacy students at Senate and Assembly Budget Subcommittee hearings. Thank you to all!

Without state funds, we would have lost 42 programs state-wide, and the surviving programs would have served 25% fewer learners. Since it is estimated that 23% of adults in California lack basic literacy skills such that they would be unable to fill out a job application, this is also a huge victory for California. Clearly, improving literacy makes good economic sense.  Of the adults throughout our state who set the following goals during our last reporting period, 48% wrote their first résumé, 58% were able to fill out a job application, and 53% found a job. All of which makes for a healthier, more stable community!

We all know how important our work is, but no one can express it more vividly than an adult learner: Martha S. says:

“The first time I ever said openly to anyone that I could not read, I knew it was time to put behind me a lifetime of frustration, humiliation, embarrassment, shame, labels of “dumb and retarded,” and being powerless. Often I was at the mercy of others because I did not know what I was signing or agreeing to because I could not read for myself…I was nervous and overwhelmed the day I met my tutor. I was finally going to learn how to read!  Learning is a joy now and I am relaxed, comfortable, and pleased with where I am in my life. I regret the ignorance of people in my life, but I have left their insults behind. Everything I am learning from my tutor is taking root in my heart. The time and effort we are investing in my learning to read is such a joy and privilege.  Every new word I learn increases my confidence and self-esteem.  I am very proud of myself.”

On behalf of the thousands of people like Martha throughout California who are now able to perform tasks that we take for granted—reading medicine labels, helping a child with homework, filling out a job application, and voting—thank you CLA!!!

Laura Seaholm, Program Manager
Program Second Chance, Contra Costa County Library