Project Read - Menlo Park Improves Communities By Promoting Literacy

Project Read - Menlo Park and its team of volunteers are helping adults improve their lives and their families' lives by assisting them with their literacy skills. Keep reading to learn more about this organization's work and how you can help support it.

By Jessica Lyons

Project Read

The California-based Project Read - Menlo Park was formed in 1985 after receiving funding from the California Library Literacy Services. It has more than 100 adult learners participating in its programs.

'Our mission is fairly simple,' said Roberta Roth, the Literacy Outreach Specialist at Project Read - Menlo Park. 'We enable adults to improve their basic literacy skills so they can function in all aspects of their lives.'

Project Read - Menlo Park's largest program is their one-on-one tutoring service. Community volunteer tutors go through training and are then matched with an adult. The pair meets once or twice a week for sessions that last an hour and a half or two hours.

'The tutoring is very learner-centered, so the individual is learning what he or she needs to learn,' Roth said. 'We strive to determine what the learner's goals are and keep the focus on those goals and evaluate those goals as the tutoring progresses.'

Roth explained that the learners set goals with their tutors. These could include being able to effectively communicate with their children's teachers or with doctors, understanding instructors better, getting involved in their community, voting for the first time or being able to get a better job or a promotion. Other examples of the goals the learners set for themselves include learning how to use e-mail, obtaining a library card, learning how to fill out an online job application and being able to pass the U.S. citizenship test.

'When people can start really getting involved in their community, vote for the first time, get involved with their child's school parent organization, that has a huge impact on that person and that person's family as well as strengthening the entire community,' Roth said.

Another component of the organization's work is offering a beginning class in English literacy as well as an intermediate class. The classes are held twice a week and are taught by certified teachers who volunteer their services. While the classes currently meet in the fall, winter and spring, Roth said that in 2014 they are hoping to also hold a summer session.

Project Read - Menlo Park also has a computer lab with eight PCs, where its computer literacy program takes place. The five computer lab tutors can assist learners and their tutors as they work in the lab.

'All of our services are free, so they're very accessible,' Roth said.

There are more than 100 volunteers who are part of Project Read - Menlo Park. In addition to having volunteer tutors and computer lab volunteers, there are also individuals who donate their time to help in the office or with fundraising and marketing.

'Volunteers are the backbone, heart and soul of the program,' Roth said.

Roth said that the organization would benefit from having more tutors, since Project Read - Menlo Park has a waiting list of learners who want to be paired with a tutor. She said sometimes learners have to wait as long as two or three months for a tutor to become available.

'We definitely need more tutors, particularly for the one-on-one tutoring,' she said.

In addition to seeking volunteers for their program, Roth said they are also looking for people to volunteer as board members for Project Read - Menlo Park Literacy Partners.

Other ways people can support the work of Project Read - Menlo Park are through making tax-deductible donations or by shopping with stores that make donations to the organization. Those who shop at Kepler's Bookstore in Menlo Park can mention the organization to have a portion of what they spend donated to Project Read - Menlo Park, and qualifying purchases made through AmazonSmile can also result in Project Read - Menlo Park receiving financial support.

Study.com has made a donation to support the work of Project Read - Menlo Park. To find out more about how you can support them, visit their website.

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