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A local business owner in her mid-30’s recently contacted the Placer Adult Literacy Service (PALS) requesting tutoring. She did not know how to read and wanted to help her son with his homework.

Adult Literacy in Placer County

by Randi Swisley, Ways of Life That Work


A local business owner in her mid-30’s recently contacted the Placer Adult Literacy Service (PALS) requesting tutoring. She did not know how to read and wanted to help her son with his homework.

A young man in our county jail is also learning how to read from PALS tutors. When he came to jail, he lost his college athletic scholarship, not because he cannot read, but because he was arrested.

These two people are among the 10% of adults in Placer County who cannot read. Across California, one in four adults is illiterate.

Many people who are unable to read are smarter than average, but uneducated. In fact, many develop strong coping skills to compensate for not being able to read basic survival information like product directions, road signs, the news or a job application.

Working for a life-skills-training program in Sacramento over a period of several years, I listened to stories from over 100 homeless women. The pattern of homelessness was passed down from generation to generation. It included having children, losing children, going to jail, using illegal drugs, dropping out of school, and the inability to read. Costs and a heavier load on society for public services (including welfare, mental health, rehabilitation, courts, and law enforcement) all increase when this cycle is continued. Social assistance programs in some areas are recognizing the best way to break this cycle is to read to children in disadvantaged environments at an early age. During inspections of living environments, social workers insist that books are present and being read on a regular basis to all children present. Mothers in these environments are willing participants in the low cost, high quality tactic of regularly reading to their children as a way to help them develop into a better life.

General guidelines in our country suggest that children should have 1000 stories read to them from start to finish before they begin kindergarten. Reading one story every day for 3 years, for example, adds up to more than 1000. Parents who cannot read to their children start or continue the multi-generational cycle of not being able to read and passing along the burdens that come with that cycle.

For the one in ten adults in Placer County who cannot read, free services are available from PALS and local libraries. In addition to the PALS tutors, Brainfuse is a private company that offers online tutoring for all ages including resume writing, test preparation, live career coaching, foreign language lessons and more. The Literacy Support Council donated money to the Placer County library, on behalf of the PALS program, to pay for a subscription to Brainfuse. The Brainfuse service can be accessed by the public from Placer County Library’s website free of charge. You simply need a Placer County Library card to log in. The card is also free and can be obtained at any of our 11 branch locations in the county.

PALS tutors meet one-on-one with learners, in person, anywhere in Placer County for confidential reading and writing assistance.

Referring people to these services not only helps strengthen our entire community, it also helps those who cannot read advertisements to become aware. PALS phone number is (530) 886-4530.