The Program

Partners in Reading (PAR) is dedicated to supporting adult learners in basic reading, writing, language, technology, and life skills to engage with greater confidence in all areas of their lives. Since 1989, this San José Public Library program has offered an array of programs designed to provide vital literacy skills and training — including one-on-one tutoring, small group instruction, family literacy support for parents/guardians with children under 14, coaching for English learners in dedicated computer labs, and English as a Second Language conversation classes.

The Need

Literacy continues to be one of the leading indicators for success, impacting nearly all aspects of a person’s life — from academics to socio-economic status, health, participation in government and civics, and more. Yet across the state of California, 25% of our 6 million K-12 students are unable to perform basic reading skills. And as students grow older, it becomes increasingly difficult to catch up to their peers.

This lack of literacy is compounded in San José, where 59% of adults speak a language other than English at home. Many of these adults struggle to perform tasks most of us take for granted, like filling out an online job application, communicating with their child’s teacher, or emailing a doctor.

The Impact

During FY2020-2021, the PAR program served 78 adult learners, including 12 learners for whom English is a second language (ESL). All told, 51 volunteer tutors contributed over 9,000 hours of service to ensure that these learners had the support they needed to succeed in the program. Thanks to dedicated PAR staff and volunteers, the program made a successful pivot to an online format when library branches were forced to close in the wake of the pandemic, including developing virtual small group classes for learners to attend. These classes were so successful, they are now fully led by volunteers and will continue to be available even as the Library begins to host classes in person.

Each year, PAR leads a writing workshop for participating learners. At this workshop, learners work closely with their tutors to write stories centered around a theme. Learners continue to craft their stories after the workshop and then work with tutors to edit and revise them. Library staff gather all of these stories into an anthology.

The latest anthology, titled The Bright Side, was published in 2021 and contains over 21 stories written by PAR learners with the support of their tutors. You can read the anthology right here on our website or download a copy to read at your convenience. You can also visit the San José Public Library’s PAR webpage to learn more and see more testimonials from tutors and learners!

Joan's Story

“(My learner) inspires me! Now he goes shopping outside his neighborhood because he feels that he can speak with the clerks and understand when they speak to him. I’m excited because that means his world is now much larger. All of this is due to his motivation and hard work. Thanks for putting us together!”
– Joan, PAR Volunteer Tutor
partners in reading


Partners in Reading is made possible through the generosity of individual donors like you.

Make a donation!

If you would like to make a gift to support this program, please visit the donate page on this website, select “Other” under “Where to Give” and indicate PAR in the space provided.