In San Luis Obispo County, an estimated 30,000 adults have limited literacy skills in English. In Santa Barbara County, about 18 percent of adults lack basic English literacy skills, that’s 50,000 people. And in Monterey County, according to Panetta Institute for Public Policy, 28 percent of adults - or eighty to ninety thousand people - are unable to read or understand written English.
Trying to decrease those numbers are several programs around the Central Coast, offered by public libraries or non-profits. They are all part of the California State Library Literacy Service, which partially funds the programs.
In Santa Barbara County, there is the public library system's Adult Literacy Program and the Central Coast Literacy Council, which serves Santa Maria, Solvang, Lompoc, Los Alamos and Orcutt. The Monterey County Free Libraries’ Adult Literacy Program offers one-on-one tutoring or conversation groups. And in San Luis Obispo, Literacy for Life teaches 400 to 600 adults each year their English ABCs, said executive director Bernadette Bernadi.
"We are always in need of tutors," Bernadi said.
Beverly Schwartzberg is Santa Barbara's Adult Literacy Coordinator. She says volunteer tutors offer help to anyone who signs up, for any reason.
“Whether that is becoming a citizen or improving their English for work, or learning how to read and write on a basic level in Spanish or English, or prepare for college; we are ready to help out-of-school adults reach their goals,” Schwartzberg said.
In Santa Barbara County, those interested in become a tutor are required to take a nine-hour course first.
"It seems like a long time, but when you finish training, you realize it’s not nearly long enough,” Schwartzberg said. “We talk about basics of tutoring, what makes a good tutor, and we talk about fundamentals of tutoring, basic skills, reading skills, reading comprehension, writing and English language learning.”
The next new tutor training course for Santa Barbara’s Adult Literacy Program starts on Jan. 10.
The programs in Santa Barbara and Monterey counties are free. San Luis Obispo’s program asks for a $25 registration fee to attend the tutor training session; the next training session begins at the end of February.