Literacy Takes a Village

| May 2, 2013 | 0 Comments

If you can read this, consider yourself lucky.

Today, one in five adults in our county can’t, limiting their ability to perform daily, essential tasks that the rest of us take completely for granted.

Some illiterate adults can’t fill out a job application, follow medical instructions, pass a driver’s license test, write a note to their child’s teacher or read a bedtime story. Their job options – and earning power – are limited. Moreover, illiterates spend their lives “hiding out,” faking it, in the dark, under-achieving in every aspect of their lives. Yet, the change they undergo when finally learning to read is remarkable and inspiring.

Illiteracy is the situation that challenges the S.D. Council on Literacy (SDCOL) in its “Eat. Drink. Read., A Culinary Event for Literacy” fund-raiser, Wed., May 22, and why I’m chairing it. The event presents the creativity of our noted chefs, with dishes inspired by their favorite books, to raise awareness and funds to support 26 free programs.

I share my passion for helping to end illiteracy with committee members, participants, learners and tutors. Get to know a few:

Mark Albertazzi, artist/graphic/marketing man extraordinaire. Albertazzi doesn’t hold back helping SDCOL, clients and non-profits in his imaginative productions – most notably now: his cheery invitations and designs for “Eat. Drink.Read.”

Cody Morris: He’s tall, good-lookin’, tatted; he’s quiet – and deadly. At the SDCOL, he oversees all web and social media. He’s got the skinny on legalities and facilities, and he’s up for whatever’s needed – even if outside his purview. Oh, yes: we like a guy who never fights, never falters, never says “no!”

Executive Chef Miguel Valdez: The Wellington Steak and Martini Lounge, chose “The Mayan Prophecy,” a detective story by 6th grader Miguel Angel Aldrete, to inspire his “Eat.Drink.Read.” dish (a short rib tamale, corn, raisins, Queretaro mole – pasilla and ancho peppers, bitter chocolate, cumin, native coyote mint). The proceeds from the young author’s book’s sales support “Kids 4 Our World,” an environmental awareness organization. “Perfect,” says the chef, “as it dovetails perfectly with our mission to buy products and grow organic produce that will help … sustain the environment and the health of our guests.”

Josh Kopelman & Jacqueline Silverman: in Josh’s ten years of publishing “DiningOut San Diego,” who could better corral our restaurants and chefs? And who better than Jacqueline Silverman, his team-mate for the event, to be the “go-to” person for nailing the details? This development consultant for NFP’s knows coordination, and has the insight and strategies that ensures a powerful party.

Former learner, present tutor: Gilbert Sandoval is a member of the National City (N.C.) Host Lion Club, where he performs community service. He also coaches and manages teams for the N. C.’s Little League and Girls’ Softball League. Sandoval loves bass fishing, golf and camping. For the past seven years, he’s been a team captain for Relay for Life, National City.

For too much of his life, he was illiterate; but no more.

He tells it:

“In the fourth grade we moved to Fullerton, where my cousin lived – he was so happy that I was going to be in the same school. He asked the teacher if I could read to the class like he did – he didn’t know that I couldn’t read! I became ‘the big dummy!’

Later, in the family concrete company, I learned all aspects of the business, except the paperwork. And, I eventually worked for 17 years as a cement mason for the San Diego Unified School District. Whenever they opened a new construction department, I recognized a possible opportunity for advancement; I had all the skills, except reading and writing.

Here’s how I got by: my wife, Frances, was my ‘secretary.’ She read and wrote for me.

Finally, my son told me about the Chula Vista Literacy Team Center, where you could learn to read. I was skeptical, scared – I tested there at a third grade level. Now I call it the ‘house of miracles.’

I learned to read! I’ve tutored there since 2003. I give my learners the highest respect and kindness. I tell them, most of all, you need patience – if I can do it, anyone can.”

Chef Scott Mickelson, at The Lions Share, chose, “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs,” by Judi Barrett, and conjured up “Wild Boar meatballs with spring peas, arugula blossoms, white Miso & a cherry reduction,” and here’s why: “This story takes place in the tiny town of ‘Chewandswallow,’ where anything is possible when it comes to food, even meatballs raining from the sky!”

When you show up at this celebration of literacy, you’ll be intrigued and charmed by the chefs’ books and cuisine, you’ll salute the sponsors, toast the committee, explore the silent auction gifts, and take a chance to win “35 bottles of wine,” for a $35 raffle ticket, and more. Kudos here, too, to Jose Cruz, SDCOL’s leader, before whom the buck bows, before it comes to a stop.

Purchase your “Eat.Drink.Read.” tickets at

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Category: Education, Local News

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