Support Literacy Everyday

750 million: That’s the number of adults in the world who are considered illiterate, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, opens a new window (UNESCO). The majority of these adults, approximately two-thirds, are women. According to the Literacy Project Foundation, opens a new window, 45 million Americans are functionally illiterate and cannot read above a fifth-grade level. In California, 25% of students in public school systems are able to perform basic reading skills. In San Mateo County, 1 in 10 residents struggle with basic English.

Those are some tough numbers. UNESCO, opens a new window has the lofty goal to “ensure that all youth and a substantial proportion of adults, both men and women, achieve literacy and numeracy” by the year 2030. That’s just over a decade from now! To meet this goal and close these literacy gaps, it is more important than ever to support literacy efforts in San Mateo County and beyond.

International Literacy Day: Literacy and Multilingualism

International Literacy Day, opens a new window (ILD), which falls on September 8 every year, is a great place to start. Since 1967, ILD celebrations, opens a new window have taken place around the world to shine a light on the importance of literacy as a matter of dignity and human rights.

This year’s ILD theme is “Literacy and Multilingualism.” According to the World Literacy Foundation, opens a new window, learning a second (or third!) language improves concentration, sharpens memory, and strengthens problem-solving skills. It can also bring understanding and acceptance of different cultures and parts of the world.

Everybody, no matter their age, can improve their language skills. With your San Mateo County Libraries card, you have access to a variety of online resources that can help:

  • ABCmouse: With 9,000+ (English/Spanish) interactive books, educational games, puzzles, and other learning activities,’s award-winning online curriculum is an invaluable resource for young learners ages 2 to 8.
  • HelpNow: Connect live with an expert tutor for homework help in English and Spanish, seven days a week from 1 PM – 10 PM PST. For Kindergarten - Adult.
  • Little Pim on Kanopy: Little Pim, an animated panda, teaches different languages to children through a combination of animation and real live-action kids doing everyday activities. To access, just log into Kanopy and search for "Little Pim."

Get Involved With Literacy

San Mateo County Libraries is dedicated to supporting the literacy needs of our communities, through the following programs:

  • Literacy: Our adult literacy program, offered at the East Palo Alto and Half Moon Bay libraries, provides free one-on-one tutoring and conversation clubs to adults who want to improve their reading and writing skills. Adult learners meet with their trained volunteer tutor 2-4 hours per week in a reliable, safe, and caring learning environment.
  • Get a Diploma Online: Career Online High School (COHS) enables San Mateo County residents age 19 years and older to earn an accredited high school diploma while gaining real-world career skills.
  • Volunteer: Help an adult build literacy skills and change their life. Literacy tutors receive training to work one-on-one with adult learners.

If you want to improve your literacy, work on your diploma, or have questions about volunteering to improve the literacy of adults, please reach out to us at (650) 323-0362 or email.