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Empowerment Through Writing

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Empowerment Through Writing

San José Public Library, Calif.

Education - Adults | 2018 | Honorable Mention

Innovation Summary

Partners in Reading offers free individual and small group tutoring for adults reading below ninth grade level. Each year, adult learners can write a story for a book presented at PAR’s International Literacy Day event. Having a story published empowers adults in learning and ignites their confidence and self-esteem.

Problem Statement

Writing is perhaps the most difficult part of improving literacy skills, especially for adults coming back into a learning environment. Most learners are fearful of putting words to paper, especially a story about themselves, their lives or their dreams. Finding innovative ways to encourage learners who come from diverse cultures is a challenge requiring significant patience and sensitivity. Creating an environment where learners feel safe to commit themselves to the practice of writing is paramount.


For adult learners who all have significant life stories to tell, active and participatory brainstorming is where the work begins. A workshop facilitator helps narrow topics within the book theme and starts each learner with an individualized short sentence that introduces the learner’s topic. The sentences that follow provide detail and description. Tutors then assist learners in getting ideas down on paper, and help in the editing process until learners are satisfied with their stories.


Each year, the number of adult learners submitting stories increases. Last year, 61 learners became authors. This year, we expect 70 authors. The book will correspond with our 30th anniversary of when PAR began serving San José adults who have limited literacy skills. Recent book themes for authors have included My Journey, The Magic of Learning and My San José. These authors are empowered individuals proud to present themselves in a personal yet public way.