Thank you, Write to Read Program, for serving the community for 25 years!!

from Inside Bay Area 05/10/2010

County’s literacy program marks 25 years of helping adults read

FREMONT — It never mattered to Ray Ennes that he wasn’t much of a student. When graduation day came more than 30 years ago, he landed a good construction job and never looked back.

Until now.

After more than two decades as a drywall finisher, Ennes had little choice but to take early retirement because his union was about to reduce pension benefits significantly as result of the economic downturn.

Because most of the jobs he wants require written tests or report-writing duties, Ennes, a 51-year-old Newark resident, decided to enroll in Alameda County Library’s Write to Read adult literacy class.

“In construction, I didn’t have to spell or read or write too much,” he said. “When I got here, I couldn’t even do the crossword puzzles. Now, I’m getting pretty good.”

The literacy program, celebrating its 25th anniversary this week, has helped more than 8,000 county residents improve their job prospects, helped them assist their kids with homework, and even helped them read the Bible.

“Our purpose is to get students enough confidence so that they want to continue learning,” said Luis Kong, the program’s director.

Write to Read offers adult education classes in every main branch of the county library system. The program includes classes in literacy, computer skills, life skills and finance. It also offers English conversation groups for immigrants.

Literacy classes, like the one Ennes attends in Fremont, meet once a week for four months.

On Tuesday, instructor Marisa Masatsugu started off the two-hour lesson with a crossword puzzle and then gave instructions on introductory clauses to help students write longer sentences.

The students are a joy for Masatsugu, a retired elementary school special education teacher.

“These adults, they want to be here,” she said. “You don’t have to fight them to learn.”

Denise Cintrone, 39, enrolled last year at the urging of her brother, who already had enrolled.

“Now that my girl is in the second grade, I can help her because we’re learning some of the same things, and I can understand it better,” she said.

Cintrone, who has had retail jobs in Fremont for much of the last 20 years, mostly reads the sports sections of local newspapers, but has more bookish aspirations.

“My goal is, I would love to read Shakespeare or the King James Bible,” she said.

The literacy program has a budget of about $500,000 a year, which pays for six employees, four teachers, and about 35 tutors. nnual enrollment has nearly doubled in the past three years to nearly 250 students, which Kong attributes to the struggling economy and an improved promotional effort.

He’s hoping to expand access to computer labs and offer more life skills classes.

Ennes said the class has been a valuable refresher after 30 years of not have to read or write very much.

“It’s just really preparing me for going on to another career,” he said. “I’m more confident when I’m filling out applications.”

Interested tutors are encouraged to call Kong at 510-745-1484.

The program is holding a party for former students and volunteers 6:30 to 9 p.m. Wednesday at the Fremont Main Library, 2400 Stevenson Blvd.


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