Three years ago Robert E. Grove, Ph.D read an article about the Pleasanton Reads Project, the Pleasanton Library's basic adult literacy and English as a Second Language (ESL) program. Grove, a serial entrepreneur turned consultant, had always been interested in languages and decided to volunteer as a tutor.
The Pleasanton Library offers volunteer tutor training and orientation sessions every other month. After taking a four-hour training class, Grove was matched with a student who worked as a restaurant busser. They met together regularly to improve her English. When they first met, the student had worked in the same job for well over 10 years, always at minimum wage.
"Without English fluency, she would be forever trapped in the lowest level of job opportunities," says Grove. "With help from me, and a tremendous amount of hard work on her part, she is now fluent in English and has a much better job, with significantly higher pay."
Grove's experience is just one of many success stories that have grown out of the free Pleasanton Reads Project, which matches tutors with eligible adult students and provides meeting spaces for both tutoring and ESL conversation practice groups.
"The Tri-Valley's diverse communities include many recent immigrants who are eager to improve their English and learn about American culture," says Lori Carducci, an Adult Literacy and Reference Services Library Assistant. "Our program provides this valuable opportunity and helps adults meet their career, family, and community goals."
Hundreds of adults are able to take advantage of the Pleasanton Reads Project thanks to the support of more than 140 volunteers, but more volunteers are badly needed. "We currently have a list of over 100 adult learners waiting to be matched with a tutor," notes Carducci. That means eager adult learners must wait six months or longer to improve their English skills.
While a number of tutors have a teaching background, many, like Grove, simply have the time and interest that make tutoring effective. "We have tutors from all walks of life, some retired, some engineers, some homemakers," says Carducci, who says all types of tutors are welcome, including people born outside of the United States. "We don't force students and teachers to follow a curriculum," Carducci says. Moreover, "our pairs really develop a great relationship."
If you ask Grove about the best part of his tutoring experience, his answer is simple: "I had the opportunity to change someone's life. Given the exceptionally high cost of living in the Bay Area, the impact of making an additional 5 or 10 dollars per hour is enormous."
Grove says he also benefited as a tutor. "It's an old and true cliche that giving a present is more rewarding than receiving one; and giving the gift of language skills to make a person's life better has been tremendously rewarding for me."
The Pleasanton Public Library offers many programs in addition to the Pleasanton Reads Project. It is a place "where anyone and everyone is welcome to come and explore all that we have to offer," says Carducci. "Our values as an organization highlight customer service and inclusiveness, two values that help us to focus on our community."
For more information about the Pleasanton Reads Project, visit www.cityofpleasantonca.gov/gov/depts/lib/services/literacy.asp.
For more information about the Pleasanton Public Library, visit www.cityofpleasantonca.gov/gov/depts/lib/default.asp.