Jewish coalition joins push for literacy

If a child can't read by the end of third grade, he or she is often doomed to a lifetime of hardship and deprivation.

So how can we make sure every kid can read by age 8 or 9?

The Jewish Coalition for Literacy has a plan.

It's not a unique plan but it's a good one: Matching up volunteers with kids in kindergarten through third grade who need extra reading or homework assistance.

In its second year in the Bay Area, the 3-year-old national program seems to have struck a chord in the local Jewish community.

Last year, despite the newness of the program, more than 200 volunteers signed up.

Recruiting is currently under way for this year's volunteer crop. There will be three big kickoff events next week to attract new volunteers, but you don't have to attend one to sign up.

JCL officials are hoping to get 350 to 400 new volunteers, and response should be strong.


Perhaps the issue of literacy is basic to the Jewish immigrant experience. Many of our grandparents or great-grandparents had little or no understanding of English but they brought with them a belief in education as a ticket to success.

And just as we constantly ask, "What do we need to do to make the world a better place?" — the Jewish Coalition for Literacy offers a simple plan. What could be more basic than helping a child learn to read?

Volunteers are asked to give only one or two hours a week of their time. The only other requirement is attending one 2-1/2-hour training session.

The program is a joint project of two S.F.-based organizations, the Jewish Community Relations Council and the Jewish Community Federation.

The JCL slogan for this year is "Igniting the Spark 2000." It refers to the spark that will be ignited in a young student when he or she gets turned on to the magic of reading and learning.

But it also works on another level — the spark ignited in you when you volunteer in such a meaningful program.