U.S. Dept of Education's 2003 National Assessment
of Adult Literacy (NAAL) report, the first update
of the nation's adult literacy skills in more than
10 years, has brought media attention to the fact
that Americans struggle with reading. The mostly
glum tales of weak improvement rates and
illiterate college students make good copy.
stories, though, ignore the plight of 93 million
Americans who cannot read medicine labels,
election ballots, or TV Guide and have what
literacy experts call “below basic literacy
skills.” Those 93 million live in the margins of
a literate nation and shrink from questioning,
much less government analyses. They seek anonymity
as they creatively maneuver through everything
from driving tests to parent-teacher conferences.
They feel safe only in their libraries’
literacy programs. That story hasn’t hit the
front pages, yet.
State Library (CSL) literacy leaders see the
media’s attraction to the NAAL report as an
opportunity to showcase California's libraries,
and their winning literacy programs, as welcoming,
life-changing havens for people who struggle with
modern culture’s diverse texts.
has approximately 3.4 million adults with below
basic literacy skills. California Library Literacy
Services (CLLS), a division of the CSL, is
dedicated to helping these 3.4 million
Californians and many of those Californians know
that: California's library literacy programs have
over 5,000 adults on their waiting lists.
year, CLLS libraries served 20,014 adults in 780
communities through 103 public library
jurisdictions. As a result these adults are voting
for the first time, reading newspapers, reading
aloud to their children, and securing jobs.
Librarian of California Susan Hildreth in a
January 29, 2006 Op-Ed piece for the Sacramento
Bee wrote “Given the few resources for
adult literacy, it's remarkable what
California’s libraries have
accomplished…Continued support of specific
library programs that target those with the lowest
literacy skills is of [great] value.” That’s
more information about California library literacy
programs please contact Carla Lehn, CSL
Literacy Consultant, (916) 653-7743 or email Carla.Lehn@library.ca.gov.