As a parent to a kindergartener facing reading challenges, it is lovely having Randall Weaver, Project Read Manager of the San Francisco Public Library, as a friend and fellow parent.? It’s perfect, actually, because Randy:
- Has clocked over 25 years in the literacy field
- Married an awesome woman who is a school reading specialist
- Is a papa to twin five-year old girls; our families love giving children’s books as gifts!
Randy kindly agreed to share with Bookboard families some thoughts about literacy program efforts and the role digital reading plays in his work today.
D: Please tell us about your literacy program.
Randy:? Project Read is the adult literacy program of the San Francisco Public Library. Our mission is to provide free instruction in basic reading and writing for English speaking adults. The program is learner-centered, meaning professionally trained tutors support the learner’s goals, rather than a set curriculum. There are also activities for enrolled adult learners with young children.
D: How did you start in this field?
Randy: Good question!? I actually have an undergraduate degree in anthropology and linguistics and graduate work in psychology and counseling.? Library-based literacy programs have often looked to individuals from outside the traditional education establishment to create alternate approaches to adult education.? When I was hired 25 years ago, I guess I convinced someone that I had such an approach! ?This all makes sense when you recognize that the individuals we serve have fallen through the cracks of the traditional educational system. They’re not comfortable getting back into an institution that failed them.
D:?How does your program support family literacy?
Randy: Our family literacy program* is primarily focused on training our learner/parents to read to their children on a regular basis and interact more effectively with the school system. ?We don’t instruct the children directly, but instead we give the learner/parents easy ideas they can use to?help their children be more successful in school.
D: Does your program use digital books and reading approaches?
Randy: We’re beginning to experiment with digital books and instructional resources for tablets and smart phones.? Technology that allows e-books to sync with professionally recorded audio — so users can hear and see words highlighted along the way — is a very powerful tool, providing visual and auditory reinforcement to the vocabulary being learned.
We have an “anything that works” philosophy, so we point learners in the direction of any and all available resources.? Our library has access to thousands of free downloadable e-books, but you need your own device – a tablet, iPad, or Kindle, for example.? Most learners don’t have access to this technology because of their limited income and their struggles with digital literacy.
What might be effective for one person will leave the next person scratching their head, so I don’t think there’s a magic e-book bullet that will meet the needs of everyone.? But any features that help the learner connect more strongly with what’s being read would be great.
D: Any advice for parents helping children with reading?
I think it’s important to introduce young children to the joy of reading and not make it a chore or lesson. Having said that, there are simple and fun things parents can do to reinforce what has already been introduced?at school.
My wife and I will point to the words in the title or on the page, then read while pointing to each word. The girls will want to do the same. ?Or ask them to look at specific words and tell you the first letter and the sound they hear it making.? So simple, but it reinforces the sound-symbol relationships already being learned in school.
*According to their website, Project Read’s Family Literacy Program provides participants free children’s books, encourages reading as a family activity, and empowers parents to be the “child’s first and foremost teacher.”