Second Start Adult Literacy Program

What We Do

Second Start helps adults reach their literacy goals.

In 1984, the Oakland Public Library started one of the original library-based adult literacy programs in California. Since that time, adults in the Second Start program have been improving their basic literacy skills in order to achieve their personal learning goals and dreams. Every adult who walks through the door is a lifelong learner, and Second Start can be the beginning of a truly transformative journey in learning and in life.

"For the first time in my life I feel good about saying things that are in my mind. I can put them on paper at last." - a Second Start student

How We Do It

Second Start offers a confidential setting in which adults with low skill levels are able to get a "second start" at learning, for free. Adult students meet on-to-one with volunteer tutors. They can also participate in the computer learning lab and in family literacy programming if they are parents or have children in their lives. Small learning groups focusing on reading, spelling, math, and book discussions are also available to adult literacy students enrolled in the program.

Be a Volunteer Tutor

Click here to learn about being a tutor.

Click here to sign-up to be a tutor.

Contact Us

To speak to us more about the Second Start Adult Literacy program, you can call us at (510) 238-3432.

Our Hours

Second Start is open:

  • Mondays: 10:00-5:30
  • Tuesdays: 10:00-5:30
  • Wednesdays: 12:00-8:00
  • Thursdays: 12:00-8:00
  • Fridays: 12:00-5:30

The Need for Adult Literacy Services is Great

In Alameda County, an estimated 19% of English-speaking adults lack the most basic literacy skills. In Oakland, this percentage is probably much higher, as its high school drop-out rate has been put at 37% - one of the highest in the State of California. People who lack basic skills might have trouble filling out a new form at work, reading bills or letters from a child's school. Their health is put at risk when they can't read the labels on prescription medicines or understand information about managing diabetes or asthma. Adults who struggle with reading can have a hard time participating in a technology-based society, not to mention the social, economic, and political life of Oakland.

The Oakland Public Library's Second Start Program Works

Adult learners in Second Start are active participants in their own learning and often use materials of importance to them in tutoring. Curriculum involves both adult learners and tutors and helps facilitate personal and community change. The program makes a difference in adults' everyday lives at home, at work or as community members. Some recent accomplishments include reading street signs, registering to vote, passing a certification test for home care, getting a library card, paying bills independently, completing a job application, getting a driver's license, and reading to children.

Here are some guidelines for referring adult learners to Second Start:

Second Start serves people age 18 and older who read below a high school level. The program also serves 16-17 year olds who are not enrolled in high school

Second Start students are motivated to learn and have decided for themselves they want to participate in the program. The program cannot effectively serve people who are mandated to enroll by a third party.

Second Start students speak English well enough to communicate with a tutor and with staff people over the phone and in person. Most students in the program are native English speakers, but many students are non-native English speakers who can benefit from tutoring sessions that are conducted in English.

Students in the program are able to talk with staff members and with their tutors about what they want to learn about and be able to do. Tutoring pairs discuss their progress, what is working well, and what they would like to improve in their sessions.

Potential students contact Second Start themselves to schedule a first meeting with us in order to enroll in the program. We meet new students by appointment only and are unable to accept people on a drop-in basis.