A Lompoc Valley program to teach adults with low literacy skills how to read and write will continue under a new partnership with the Central Coast Literacy Council.
To keep the adult reading program operating, the board of trustees for the Lompoc Public Library System this week agreed to enter into a contract with the nonprofit Central Coast Literacy Council.
“It’s an established program, and it will enhance what we’ve been doing and expand it,” said Ann Ruhge, president of the Lompoc library board.
The council’s own board agreed to the partnership last month.
“It just makes sense to move forward,” said Laura Arteaga Davidson, director of the Central Coast Literacy Council. She added that Lompoc and Santa Maria “share similar challenges, similar demographics and a similar commitment to literacy.”
The partnership, tentatively set to begin July 1, will continue the one-to-one literacy training provided by the library’s current program.
The Lompoc program had operated under the library with a staff person, and volunteer tutors providing one-to-one literacy training.
“We want to come in as partners and make it as seamless as possible,” Davidson said.
Talks between the literacy council and Lompoc library officials began earlier this year as the program suffered a budget shortfall that required a bail-out from the Lompoc City Council to keep the services operating through June.
“We just didn’t have the funding,” Ruhge said. “It wasn’t going to happen. I think it’s a way to keep the program going and make it even more viable for the community.”
The Lompoc library board recently eliminated the literacy program staff position as it moved toward joining forces with the Central Coast group.
The partnership with Lompoc fits into the Central Coast Literacy Council’s expansion plans for 2014, Davidson said.
The literacy council received a grant from the Santa Barbara Foundation to create learning centers at workplaces, and has partnerships at Driscoll’s and C&D Zodiac. The workplace tutoring involves classes of between five and 15 students.
The literacy council wasn’t able to adopt the existing program in Lompoc, but will provide an expanded version of the workplace initiative so the literacy services in the community can continue, Davidson added.
Under the agreement, the literacy council will provide the coordinator and operate the program in Lompoc in exchange for receiving a portion of the library’s state grant for literacy services plus a monthly stipend.
In 2013, the literacy council served 300 students as 50 tutors provided 7,000 hours of instruction, according to Davidson.
The Lompoc program had 90 students and 30 volunteers.
“Part of our vision is to be able to increase that number by opening community-based centers,” Davidson said.
The Central Coast Literacy Council formed in 1983 to serve northern Santa Barbara County.
Recent Census data identified 76,000 residents countywide as being functionally illiterate, Davidson said.
Some of those may be adults who didn’t complete grade school or high school. Others have undiagnosed learning disabilities, something the literacy council’s program can help identify and assign an appropriate tutor for the student.
Illiteracy is a community problem linked to increase crime and unemployment, according to Davidson, who said improving literacy brings economic stability to the community.
Illiteracy also takes a personal toll. Davidson mentioned one man who told of the humiliation at not being able to read until he took a brave first step to show up at the literacy council for help.
His tutors are already seeing improvements in his reading abilities and recently presented a certificate to the student.
“He was just beyond himself,” Davidson said, adding that his is one of the many touching stories she hears through the literacy program.