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October 29, 2008 > InfoBrain: Free to Learn @ Your library - the Write to Read Program at Alameda County Library

InfoBrain: Free to Learn @ Your library - the Write to Read Program at Alameda County Library

By Joy Tsou, Adult Services Librarian at Union City Library

Everyone knows that the public library is the place to check out books, CD's, DVD's, and a place to meet friends and attend various programs. Did you know that the library also offers free classes for you to learn how to read, write, spell, and even speak in English?

According to UNESCO, it is estimated that 875 million of the world's adults do not know how to read or write, with nearly two-thirds being women, and that more than 110 million children lack access to education. In California alone, 1 out of 5 people have difficulty reading. Literacy skills are fundamental to people's education and life-long success. Not only does the Alameda County Library provide all these resources to the community, it also plays an important role in empowering people to utilize the resources by teaching the basics - reading, writing, critical thinking and communication.

The Write to Read Adult Literacy program has been providing adult tutoring in Alameda County since 1984. The Literacy program staff takes great pride in helping many citizens develop their abilities to read and write better. I still remember the first contact I personally had with the public library while attending one of the literacy classes more than fifteen years ago. I had just immigrated to this country, and was a new mother with a newborn infant. I was so eager to get out of the house, make new friends, and learn about American life. I enrolled in various classes, interacted with many enthusiastic tutors, and met a lot of great friends from all over the world. My involvement in the literacy program became one of the most precious experiences I'd ever had. Since that time, I not only fulfilled all these goals, but also moved myself up the career ladder from housewife to librarian where I now can help others fulfill their dreams.

There are two main tutoring services of the program: one is for native English speakers who would like to improve their reading and writing skills, and the other service is for people whose native tongue is not English but they can communicate in English to some extent and who want to improve their reading and conversation. What all students have in common is an interest in using reading and writing skills more comfortably in their lives. The Write to Read Literacy program provides accessible small classes with instructors and trained tutors, and for second-language learners, the classes help learners understand American culture in a comfortable and friendly atmosphere.

Free one-on-one tutoring and small group instruction are offered at most of our branch libraries and in community locations. For the 2008 fall session, we have four "Window to the World" book discussion classes for the second language learners in the Fremont area, three in the library and one at the Borders bookstore in the Fremont Hub. There are three more small groups at the Union City library, Newark library and Dublin library. We are also offering another three basic literacy classes for native speakers at the Fremont and Union City libraries.

Students who are interested in improving their reading and writing skills must make an appointment for an assessment which takes about 30 to 45 minutes. After the assessment, we will help students sign up for classes, or refer them to a community college or an Adult School depending upon their levels, needs, and goals. Once the students are accepted into the program, they can register for the classes, small groups or tutoring that fit their needs.

Our teachers are professional educators and our volunteer tutors are patient and dedicated individuals ready to help students meet their goals. The program also offers teaching opportunities for creative, responsible volunteers and student interns enrolled in teaching programs. If you are interested in helping people, introducing American culture to immigrants, or learning something new from people from all over the world, please consider volunteering as a book discussion leader or a one-on-one tutor. We look forward to including you as part of the Literacy family. Together we will help our students change their lives.

If you know somebody who will benefit from the Write to Read Literacy program, or if you are interested in volunteering, please contact the Alameda County's Write to Read Adult Literacy Program at (510) 745-1480 or visit us online at

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