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Read Santa Clara Shapes Lives Through Literacy Development

Read Santa Clara Shapes Lives Through Literacy Development

For the last six years, ReJoyce Ross has been a learner at Read Santa Clara, the city library’s free literacy program.

“What made me come here was that I was cleaning a lady’s house and her husband was there,” Ross says. “I was supposed to pull out a special cleaner from under the cabinet, and I didn’t know how to find it because I didn’t know how to spell it or read it…The husband asked me if I had trouble reading. I said I did, and he said it was nothing to be ashamed of, that there was a place that can help me, and that was the library. That was the beginning of my journey. When I started, I was at the second-grade level of reading.”

Today, Ross, 62, is still a housekeeper, but also employed at a hospital. She enjoys reading her mail, the Bible and other books. Immensely grateful for the Read Santa Clara program, Ross pays it forward by volunteering in her community and speaking to schools and community groups about her reading development.


“When I [began working] at the hospital, I had to take a test every year,” Ross says. “For the first three years, I had to take the test at the library with help [from Read Santa Clara]. Now I take the test at Good Sam because I don’t need help.”

“Read Santa Clara has been around since 1995 and this year marks the 20th anniversary of our program,” says Shanti Bhaskaran, literary program supervisor for the Santa Clara City Library. “Each year, we reach over 100 learners. Our mission is to train and support volunteers and to provide one-on-one and small group tutoring to English-speaking adults who wish to improve their basic literacy skills…Our program is very learner-centered in that all our literacy instruction is driven by the learners’ goals and needs. We have a diverse group of learners. Our youngest learner is in their early 20s and our oldest learner is 92.”

The library provides 12 and a half hours of tutor training to volunteers before they get matched with adult learners. Tutor and learner pairs meet for at least two hours each week for a minimum period of six months.

“The best part about tutoring is feeling like you’re making a difference in someone’s daily life and future,” says Marilyn Dippell, a tutor and tutor trainer.

“Every year, we publish a book of learner writings called ‘In Our Own Words,'” Bhaskaran says. “The book includes stories written by our adult learners, who needed varying degrees of help from tutors to write the stories. The book is made possible by a grant from the Santa Clara City Library Foundation & Friends. ReJoyce is one of the authors in this year’s book.”

The library will celebrate the release of “In Our Own Words” on Saturday, April 11 from 2-4 p.m. at the Mission City Center for Performing Arts. Call 408-615-2956 or email for more information about the book release or volunteering or learning with Read Santa Clara.


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