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, English as a Second Language conversation cafes, and advanced communications classes for non-native English speakers who test above 8th grade language proficiency.

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 FY2019-2020, the PAR program served 377 adult learners, including 48 students for whom English is a second language (ESL). All told, 197 volunteer tutors contributed 13,720 hours of service to ensure that these learners had the support they needed to succeed in the program. Thanks to dedicated PAR staff, the program made a successful pivot to an online format when library branches were forced to close in the wake of a pandemic. This included the annual writing workshop.

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 My Greatest Adventure, was published in 2020 and contains over 20 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 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.