Library's Literacy Program Becomes More Effective

Article excerpt

Byline: John Carter, Staff writer

The Jacksonville public library system is creating more users by teaching literacy through a free program staffers say is increasingly effective.

The Main Library on Ocean Street downtown began teaching adults to read through its Center for Adult Learning in 1985. But for years, students learned primarily through computer-assisted instruction in an isolated setting.

But in the fall of 1999, the library system expanded and enhanced its literacy instruction program, thanks in large part to a $225,000 three-year Lila Wallace Readers Digest grant of "seed money."

In part due to feedback from those using the literacy training, Jacksonville's library system now uses a team of 20 volunteers and 12 paid instructors to teach reading to small classes of about six to eight students. The program is being offered at the Main Library downtown, Southeast branch, Bradham-Brooks branch, Beaches branch, Regency branch and Webb Wesconnett branch.

"The classroom-type instruction is being very well-received, and our instructors report much better completion rates," said library spokeswoman Stacie Bucher.

Sharon Hastings, the library's literacy program supervisor, said she and her staff were a little surprised that students wanted to learn in a classroom setting.

"We'd kind of assumed they'd prefer the anonymity of the individual instruction," Hastings said. "But they thought working in classrooms would work better, and, frankly, that seems to be the case. Not only that, but working in classes seems to be a real bonding experience for the students. …

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