Recent estimates indicate that approximately 422,000 adults in San Diego County are functionally illiterate. More than twenty literacy programs serve this population, but READ/San Diego is the largest and most visible. Of the approximately 100 library literacy programs in California, READ/ San Diego is the largest and best funded, serving more than 1,000 learners each year.
READ/San Diego serves a large and diverse area ranging from downtown San Diego to mountain hamlets. Extending from the coast to Orange and Riverside counties to the border of Mexico, the area READ/San Diego serves is larger than the state of Rhode Island. Forty-two percent of the learners served by READ/San Diego are Hispanic; 46 percent live at or below the federal poverty level.
In California, library-based literacy programs gained statewide momentum in 1984 with the passing of legislation to create the California Literacy Campaign (CLC). Known now as California Library Literacy Services (CLLS) at the California State Library, CLLS administers grants to public libraries to set up adult literacy programs like READ/San Diego and provides ongoing support by matching funds. To apply, libraries must submit an application, budget request, job descriptions, and letters of support from the community. The state guarantees funds for five years, during which the CLLS provides consultation and technical assistance to libraries. The local programs recruit tutors and learners, design instructional materials, and create public relations and outreach strategies.