Quick—what images come to mind when you hear the words ‘literacy’ and ‘tutoring’? If they don’t include Christmas trees and happy parents choosing books to give to their children, then you don’t know the latest in literacy. It’s all about family at Learning Quest, the nonprofit provider of adult literacy services in Stanislaus County.
Executive Director Karen Williams describes a recent Christmas session at their PACT [Parent and Child Time] program, where the adult students could chose from donated books and school supplies. “What was awesome about that was that [the parents] could turn around and chose books and wrap them up and put them under their tree at home if they didn’t have a lot to give. It was really heart warming. It was really gratifying.” Williams swallows audibly. “It’s a program that’s dear to my heart because I see how it impacts not just the parent, but the children.” Don’t be fooled by the feels. Williams has peer reviewed evidence to prove what she sees every day. Increase the parent’s literacy, and you’ll improve outcomes for the family. “We want the whole family to be lifted by this program,” Williams affirms.
PACT is part of Learning Quest’s ESL program. But it would be a mistake to think low literacy skills are limited only to non-native English speakers in Stanislaus County. “Learning Quest is the only provider of adult basic literacy tuition for English speaking adults,” Williams says. Stanislaus County has suffered from low literacy skills and high dropout rates for decades.
Among other programs, Learning Quest offers free preparation classes for the high school equivalency [HSE] diploma, citizenship preparation classes, and a college and career center to assist students moving onto junior college. “The HSE is a conduit to college,” she affirms. But even students seeking to enter skilled trades training rather than college will have difficulty without a diploma in hand. “Many training programs require a diploma. You’re going to get so stuck so often if you don’t have that diploma.”
Williams says, “Literacy is a societal currency. The more you have, the better you do.” But its more than just a dollar figure combining higher wages, better job choice and promotion opportunities. There’s also the cost to the community. “Low literacy affects health and family stability as well as the economy,” Williams says. She sees first hand how empowered LearningQuest’s clients become. “People don’t realize how well equipped they are to help their children. We use things around the house to show them how they can teach a science lesson, or an art lesson.” Family literacy also includes the day-to-day life skills that most of us take for granted. “Not just about reading, but about life skills: how to call in an absence for their child, talk with a doctor, or advocate for their child.”
KidsQuest is their newest program, as of October 2019, offering free screening and early intervention for children with dyslexia. As do all Learning Quest’s programs, it meets a major need. The neurologically-based learning disorderaffects as many as one in five people at varying levels of severity, Williams says. “Some [children] learn to adapt and don’t necessarily need intervention,” she notes, but others need weekly sessions for several years.” That puts it out of the reach of many Stanislaus County residents. “There are so many kids out there, the numbers are kind of astounding,” Williams says. With the support of Denise Nordell of Friends of the Modesto Library, the pilot program resulted in free testing being delivered and multiple tutoring pairs established. “I’m looking forward to moving this forward.”
And now through April 15th, Learning Quest is running the Building Hope Scholarship Drive. With the Mary Stuart Rogers Foundation doubling donations up to a total of $40,000, Williams sees the opportunity to serve even more areas of unmet need. Their mission statement is, ‘Empowering adults through educational services and improving self-reliance for the family.’ Their programs are backed by scientific research and testing. But it’s the family touch that makes LearningQuest’s work so meaningful.
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