Hiker young woman sitting on fallen tree trunk over the river

If you only visit the Library to check-out books or DVDs, you’re missing a huge part of what Santa Monica Public Library has to offer. Did you know that there is a Library program going on, at one or more of our locations, pretty much every day of the year? In 2016 the Library presented over 1,900 programs that drew over 65,800 participants. We have programs of all types – book discussions, crafts, computer classes, author talks, film screenings, concerts – and for all ages.

While some of these programs are totally, completely, unabashedly for fun – how about a screening of The Secret Life of Pets, anyone? – many are educational in nature and, of those, some speak specifically to learning skills that advance one’s literacy, or “competence or knowledge in a specified area.” Our programs include everything from Story Times for babies and children to computer classes for adults; all with the goal of boosting literacy.

This year, the Santa Monica Public Library (SMPL) expands its educational offerings by launching a new Adult Literacy Program, made possible by a California Library Literacy Grant. The program features volunteer adult literacy tutors working one-on-one with adult learners, helping them learn or improve their reading and writing skills. This new program is part of a larger umbrella of learning programming at the Library.

As parents and educators know, literacy starts young. Emergent literacy is what children learn about reading and writing, before they can actually read and write. We read to our children to entertain them, but also to help them learn to recognize symbols and letters and to understand that stories have structure. The Library’s Youth Services department provides story times for three age groups: Baby Time (birth to 17 months), Toddler Time (18 to 35 months), and Preschool Story Time (3 to 5 year olds). Additionally, the Library supports Santa Monica’s Building Blocks for Kindergarten program by working together with parents and educators to make sure all Santa Monica children start kindergarten ready to learn, inside and outside the classroom.

Kids and teens can develop and strengthen their literacy skills at the Library through a variety of programs and resources. The very young can utilize such online literacy services as TumbleBooks and Sesame Street eBooks. All Santa Monica Public Library locations provide AWE Early Literacy Stations, computers loaded with fun, interactive and engaging content for kids, ages two through eight, that span seven curricular areas: math, science and nature, social studies and geography, reading, art and music, writing and computer skills, and reference.

Learning continues into adulthood and the Library accommodates adult interests through programming, services, and materials. All SMPL locations offer computer classes for adults. Each monthly schedule – available at all Library locations and on our homepage, smpl.org – features beginner and intermediate classes, as well as a few specialized classes on topics such as eBooks and social media.

Santa Monica Public Library’s Pico Branch offers LEAMOS, a pre-ESL online literacy course for Spanish speakers looking to learn or improve reading and writing skills. The Library has teamed up with the Adult Education Center to host ESL classes, with community and SMMUSD parents receiving priority registration. The first series of classes runs from January through June of this year, with the plan to continue with additional sessions after that.

Which brings us to the launch of the Library’s Adult Literacy Program. The first step in establishing the Program was to expand our collection materials that could benefit adult learners. The Library has always had an extensive collection of books and AV materials on various academic topics such as history, math, and grammar. The addition of the Ready Reads collection for adult learners expands our offerings greatly. Currently located at the Main, Ocean Park and Pico Libraries, the collection will soon expand to the Fairview and Montana locations as well. It consists of fiction, nonfiction, and workbooks for adults learning to read and write, or improve their literacy skills. The collection has everything from mystery novels, to biographies, to books on health, and even personal finance.

Currently, we’re in the process of training the volunteer literacy coaches so they will have the tools they need to assist adult learners in developing or advancing their reading and writing skills. The adult learners they work with will be encouraged to set goals – such as reading a book to their child, balancing their bank account, or being able to fill out an online job application – that their coaches will then help them achieve.

Santa Monica Public Library is currently reaching out to the community to find adults that would benefit from the Literacy Program. If you or someone you know wants help with their reading or writing, please get in touch with us. The program is free and open to the public. To learn more or register for tutoring, call 310-458-8646 or stop by the Main Library Information Desk.

If you’re an adult interested in becoming a literacy coach, you’ll find us on Volunteer Match (volunteermatch.org; just search ‘santa monica public library’). You can also call (310) 458-8646 or visit the Main Library Information Desk.