Project Read-Menlo Park seeks community support to expand literacy programs

by Contributed Content on May 22, 2018

Project Read-Menlo Park is appealing to the local community to augment a range of programs and a vision to provide additional services to the Belle Haven neighborhood of Menlo Park.

Community members may easily make a secure donation to Project Read through its nonprofit fundraising partner, Literacy Partners, at a newly-improved website.

For more than 30 years, Project Read-Menlo Park has provided one-to-one tutoring in English for non-native speakers as well as U.S. natives who never learned to read and write to their satisfaction. Typically, says Program Manager Jason T. Sugimura, learners meet once or twice weekly with a volunteer tutor to improve their language skills. Many, he says, go on to continue their education, achieving GEDs, college degrees and promotions or new jobs. Most improve their ability to talk with customers or bosses or their kids’ teachers.

For nearly four years, Project Read has offered a weekly Conversation Club (pictured, top), an informal weekly drop-in activity at the Menlo Park Library offering flexibility for learners and tutors alike. Participants gather in small groups to engage in informal discussions, often centered around a topic such as “shopping for food,” to improve verbal language skills.

“With English Conversation Club, we are able to expand our services to English learners while they are waiting for tutors — who are always in short supply — or have busy and shifting schedules precluding the regular weekly commitment expected of one-on-one learner-tutor pairs,” Sugimura explains.

Cristina Carrillo, the Project Read staff member who coordinates Conversation Club, says: “Whether or not they are seeking an assigned tutor, CC is an opportunity for many in our community to practice their English in a supportive, nonthreatening environment.

“My goal is to eventually expand English Conversation Club to our Belle Haven site and expand the times we are able offer the program,” she says. “We need a variety of times and at least two locations to ensure that busy working people, often juggling multiple jobs and/or child and family care responsibilities, can find a time or location to attend one of our sessions.”

Other Project Read-Menlo Park services, including Belle Haven beginner English classes and digital literacy coaching that helps residents communicate online with teachers or their small business clients, have been expanded in part because of community contributions, according to Linda G. Carlson, president of Literacy Partners, the nonprofit which supplements the City of Menlo Park, State of California Library System, and corporate funding that has supported 736 learners from 56 different countries since 2012. Project Read-Menlo Park was founded in 1985.

Contributions — made online or via mail — will help ensure that staffing and materials will be available to support learners and tutors throughout the Menlo Park community.

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