Become a Mentor

Become a mentor and mean something to somebody who needs you!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Legal Requirements for Mentors

To all Mentors: This pertains to everyone in all the participant/ mentor sessions. Please read and be advised about:

• Keeping all records in a special location,
• Confidentiality
• The need to consult with your staff point person if any information is divulged to you by the participant which raises a red flag!

Program Requirements for Literacy Project Mentors

An El Centro document details confidentiality guidelines, child abuse reporting guidelines, etc.  The following requirements should be the minimum ones to be secured for each mentor. The following requirements will need to be met for mentors providing tutoring/literacy resources for our minor clients.

• Fingerprint clearance for all mentors or other Literacy Project staff/volunteers facilitating literacy services for our children/clients

• Adherence to confidentiality requirements as detailed in El Centro del Pueblo’s contracts with DCFS and DMH

• Securing of all records regarding indirect services (mentorship/tutoring) in a location that is available to Mental Health and AB1733 program staff and our corresponding County auditors/monitors

• Consultation with mental health and AB1733 program staff (immediate) if a child discloses any information that indicates there is suspicion of child abuse or neglect

- end-

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


READING FOR UNDERSTANDING by Ruth Schoenbach et al. is the text which describes a course called Academic Literacy which encompasses reading apprenticeships and a professional development support network.

The course is based on connecting the known (what is in your head) to the new (what is there waiting for discovery in the world of text). It encourages students to make predictions based on partial information and understanding. Participants learn how to make their thinking public to others so that other participants can learn to benefit from each other’s difficulties and insights. The results are the discovery of the agonies and ecstasies of being a committed reader, the process of engagement, introspection, reflection, metacognition (thinking about thinking) and public sharing of cognitive secrets. All these reading skills parallel writing processes as well.

  • Mentors will hold updates monthly with El Centro professional staff.
  • Mentors and staff will have updates every 3 months regarding implementation and evaluation methods of our own adapting and testing.

What follows are excerpts and summations of chapters in the book READING FOR UNDERSTANDING, the basic text for this mentorship program.

Assessment of the Curriculum
• Assessment: Buy The Degrees of Reading Power (DRP) test from Touchstone Applied Science Associates p. 187 and use Chapter 6 to answer the question, “Do students who have been in a course designed to engage them in problem solving to comprehend text perform better at a well known comprehension task as a result of the course?”
• Include pre- and post- course survey on page 188.
• Test-averse participants need to be urged to take these tests seriously PLEASE.

Chapter 1. Rethinking the Problem: Crisis and Opportunity

We all know academic texts can be utterly boring. However, armed with appropriate strategies and mental habits, students can make their own decisions about what texts they will or won’t work through – decisions based on the goals and not on their reading ability.

In the words of one ninth grader who took the actual course in Academic Literacy: “What I can really do what I didn’t do before was think about what the book is saying and try to reflect and give some thought to what is going on in the book instead of closing it and not thinking anything when I read it.” Our goal is for our participants to be able to say the same.

Chapter 2. The Reading Apprenticeship Framework
Reading is not just a basic skill.

Reading is a complex process. Think for a moment about the last thing you read. An El Centro del Barrio bulletin? A newspaper analysis of education in California? A report on water quality in your neighborhood? If you could recapture your mental processing you would notice that you read with reference to a particular WORLD of knowledge and experience related to the text…which you are familiar with already, before reading the material.

Learning is a social-cognitive interactive process with participation of the student and others in the same group: parents, siblings, teachers, peers. In this environment are a variety of cognitive apprenticeships in which the mental activities characteristic of certain kinds of cognitive tasks such as computation, written composition, interpreting texts, and the like are internalized and appropriated by learners through social support of various kinds. Learning to read is yet another task that requires a cognitive apprenticeship. Compare it to learning to ride a bike: the proficient other is there to support the beginner and calls attention to often overlooked or hidden strategies. From the beginning, reading apprentices must be engaged in the whole process of problem solving to make sense of written texts, even if they are initially unable to carry out on their own all the individual strategies and subtasks that go into successful reading. The hidden, cognitive dimensions must be drawn out and made visible to the learner. For adolescents, being show what goes on behind the curtain of expert reading is especially powerful in helping them gain adult mastery.

Reading is problem solving.

Fluent reading is not the same as decoding.

Reading is situationally bound. An experienced reader of dessert cookbooks may not understand a political science article and vice versa. Reading is influenced by experiences of the reader.

Good readers are:
• Mentally engaged
• Motivated to read and learn
• Socially active around reading tasks
• Strategic in monitoring the interactive processes that assist comprehension:
  • Setting goals that shape their reading processes,
  • Monitoring their emerging understanding of a text, and
  • Coordinating a variety of comprehension strategies to control the reading process


Participants can be taught by a transmission approach to teaching in which students are shown strategies, asked to practice them, and then expected to be able to use them on their own. Orchestration of this interactive teaching and learning is what we call a reading apprenticeship approach to developing strategic readers.

The center of the above is an ongoing conversation in which mentor and participant think about and discuss their personal relationships to reading, the social environment and resources of the classroom or learning center, their cognitive activity, and the kinds of knowledge needed to make sense of the texty. This is metacognitive conversation and it goes on internally as both read invidudually and consider their own mental processes and externally as they talk about their reading processes, strategies, knowledge resources and motivations and their interactions with and affective responses to texts.

• Metacogition is thinking about thinking.
• Metcognition is key to deep learning and flexible use of knowledge and skills.
• Metacognition takes place through small group conversations, written private reflections and logs, personal letters to the teacher or even to characters in books. These lead students to knowing their own minds.

Developing a sense of safety is fundamental to the activity of investigating reading. Discuss what makes it safe or unsafe for students to ask questions or show their confusion in class.

Building interest in reading:
Sharing books on topics that appeal is one way to build interest in reading. What was exciting, fun, interesting or important.

Engaging students in asking questions about reading and literacy and its relationship to political, economic, and cultural power is another way to build interest in reading:
• Who reads, what do they read, why they read, how reading affects their lives
• Who does not read, how does not reading affect their lives.
• Read and talk about historical disengranchisement through lack of literacy of particular groups of people in society.
• Talk about the relationship between literacy and power of various kinds including economic, political and cultural power.

Sharing reading processes, problems and solutions:
• Talk about what is confusing in texts
• Share how teachers and students deal with comprehension problems as they come up in class texts
• Participate in small group problem solving discussions to make sense of difficult texts.
• Notice others’ ways of reading, of thinking aloud about difficult texts, of different reading strategies.
• Try the strategies out: skimming, scanning, read through ambiguity and confusion, read ahead to see if confusion clears up, review the big picture to check comprehension. Chunk groups of text, break chunks down to smaller segments, identify or clarify pronoun references and other textual connections.


Personal dimension of reading comes though metacognitive conversation (internal and external).

Developing reader identity
  • Write and talk about previous reading experiences.
  • Write and talk about reading habits, likes and dislikes.
  • Write and talk about reasons for reading.
  • Set and periodically check on goals for personal reading development.

Developing metacognition

  • Notice what is happening in your mind in a variety of everyday situations.
  • Identify various thinking processes you engage in in a variety of everyday situations.
  • Notice where your attention is when you read.
  • Identify all the different processes going on while you read.
  • Choose what thinking activities to engage in; direct and control your reading processes accordingly.
Developing reader fluency and stamina
  • Demonstrate that all readers, including teachers, are developing readers and that everyone has room to grow during a lifetime of reading.
  • Identify the role effort plays in the growth of reading comprehension over time; notice that effort p;ays off in becoming a stronger reader.
  • Notice and celebrate progress as a developing reader; increase patience with yourself as a learner.
  • Persist in reading even when somewhat confused or bored with a text.
  • Build stamina for reading longer texts and for longer periods of time.
Developing reader confidence and range
  •  Bring the huge variety of different kinds of texts students read in their daily lives into the classroom.
  • Investigate how students approach and make sense of these different kinds of texts.
  • Connect the competencies students demonstrate in approaching these texts to the resources students will need to approach unfamiliar texts.
  • Have students read, with support, short pieces representing a wide range of unfamiliar types of texts.
  • Draw attention to what students do understand when reading unfamiliar texts.
To feel in charge is important, as shown in their choice of clothes, music, free time. If you can convince the adolescent that the hard work of improving reading is an avenue toward increased individual autonomy and control as well as toward an expanded repertoire of future life options, half the battle is won.

• Getting the big picture
• Breaking it down
• Monitoring comprehension:
  • Check to see whether comprehension is occurring.
  • Test understanding by summarizing or paraphrasing trhe text or self-questioning.
  • Decide whether to clarify any confusion at this time.

 • Using problem-solving strategies to assist and restore comprehension:

  • Question texts, authors, and yourself about the text.
  • Talk to the text through marginal annotations.
  • Visualize what is described in the text.
  • Make meaningful connections between the text and other knowledge, experiences, or texts.
  • Reread sections of the text to clear up confusions.
  • Summarize, retell, or paraphrase texts or parts of texts.
  • Represent concepts and content of texts in praphic form.
  • Represent concepts an content of texts through metaphors and analogies.
  • Organize and keep track of ideas in a text through graphic organizers, outlines, response logs, and notes.

• Setting reading purposes and adjusting reading processes:

  • Set goals or purposes for your reading whenever you approach a text.
  • Read the same text for different purposes.
  • Notice how reading purposes affect reading processes.
  • Vary reading processes depending on purposes for reading. 


• Mobilizing and building knowledge structures (schemata) **
• Developing content or topic knowledge:
  • Brainstorm and share knowledge or information about the topic.
  • Identify conflicting knowledge or information about the topic.
  • Imagine yourself in situations similar to those that will be encountered in the text.
  • Explore conceptual vocabulary that will be encountered.
  • Take positions on a topic before reading about it, perhaps by writing essays on the topic before reading.
  • Evaluate the fit between your prior knowledge or conception of a topic and the ideas in the text.
• Developing knowledge and use of text structures:

  • Identify the ways particular texts are structured.
  • Notice patterns in structure across texts of similar kind.
  • Identify particular kinds of language used in particular kinds of texts.
  • Create word families associated with particular ideas or subject areas.
  • Use text organization and structure to assist in comprehension of particular texts.
  • Preview a text to build a schema for it; notice structural markers such as headings, subheadings, and illustrations.
  • Notice that particular words or phrases signal that the text is heading in a particular direction.
  • Use signal words and phrases to aid comprehension and to predict the direction particular texts will take next.
• Developing discipline- and discourse-specific knowledge.

  • Identify the possible purposes that the authors of particular texts may have had in creating these texts.
  • Identify the possible audiences particular texts seem to be addressing.
  • Identifhy the functions particular texts serve in particular circumstances.
  • Explore the large questions, puroses, and habits of mind that characterize specific academy disciplines.
  • Inquire into the ways texts function in particular disciplines.
  • Identitfy the paritcual ways of using language associated with particular academic disciplines.


**Schemata is plural for worlds of knowledge and associations as they are read, triggered by particular ideas, words or situations. Schemata for particular networks of knowledge and information are activated as individuals read and add to their existing schemata as they encounter new information. In addition, their existing schemata influence the ways they approach and make sense of texts. Schemata, stores of knowledge about texts and about the world, are organized a networks of associations which can be triggered by a single word. For example, the word BALL may call up images of baseball diamonds, backstops, and bases as well as the pitchers, batters, catchers, umps, fielders and even sports commentators who take part in the game. Innings, errors, random statistics about particular players and even the smells and sounds of baseball stadiums may quickly and automatically come to mind as such images and ideas flood into consciousness. The same word, BALL, may for another reader call up a competing schema: Images of fancy gowns, corsages, tuxedos, limousine rides, and the blushing self-consciousness of a first prom. Proficient readers know they must relinquish any schema that proves inappropriate as they encounter further information from the text, but less experienced readers will often hold onto inappropriate images that block meaningful connections with the text.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Jaime Escalante, Garfield High Legend, Delivered to the End. RIP

Become a mentor and mean something to someone who needs you!

Jaime Escalante, 79, the math teacher who was the basis for the 1988 film 'Stand and Deliver,' after battling cancer has died as of March 29, 2010.

But he still has some lessons to impart.

By Esmeralda Bermudez
March 7, 2010

There was a time in East Los Angeles when el maestro's el maestro's gruff voice bounced off his classroom walls. He roamed the aisles, he juggled oranges, he dressed in costumes, he punched the air; he called you names, he called your mom, he kicked you out, he lured you in; he danced, he boxed, he screamed, he whispered. He would do anything to get your attention.

"Ganas," he would say. "That's all you need. The desire to learn."

Nearly three decades later, Jaime Escalante finds himself far from Garfield High School in East Los Angeles, the place that made him internationally famous for turning a generation of low-income students into calculus whizzes. Twenty-two years have passed since his classroom exploits were captured in the film "Stand and Deliver."

He is 79 and hunched in a wheelchair at a cancer treatment center in Reno. It is cold outside, and the snow-capped mountains that crown the city where his son brought him three weeks ago on a bed in the back of an old van remind him of his native Bolivia.

He can't walk. He struggles to eat. Stomach acids have burned his vocal cords, reducing his voice to a whisper. The doctors who diagnosed his bladder cancer told him recently he has weeks -- at best a few months -- to live.

But don't let the frail man fool you. The teacher is not done teaching. Behind his large square glasses, that intense, mischievous look that once persuaded students to believe in themselves still lives in his eyes. He smiles at nurses, flashes a thumbs up.

When asked about his former students -- the engineers, lawyers, surgeons, administrators and teachers now spread across the country -- he wastes no time. He steals a nearby pen and slowly, in capital letters that have now grown faint, begins to write in Spanish:


Word spreads

When news of Escalante's condition broke last week, his former students rallied. Many had not spoken in years, but they tracked one another down and gathered Saturday at Garfield to raise money for their teacher. Actor Edward James Olmos, who became close to Escalante after playing him in the movie, persuaded Escalante's family to ask for help because the alternative care he is receiving in Reno is not covered by health insurance.

"All these years he's never been out of my mind," said Jema Estrella, a 37-year-old architect living in Los Angeles. "His presence was always felt."

In recent years, little had been heard from the immigrant teacher who once transformed a troubled high school into an institution with more Advanced Placement calculus students than all but three other public high schools in the country.

After his story was told on film, Escalante became legendary. He met Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush and welcomed celebrities to his classroom, along with curious educators from around the country. He was awarded money to grow his program, appointed to an education reform commission during the Bush administration and made the star of an educational television series. For a time, he even flirted with politics.

In 1991, after 17 years at Garfield, he left amid much discord to teach math in Sacramento. He blamed jealousy and politics for his departure. Fellow teachers resented Escalante's ego and the constant media attention they said pulled him from the classroom.

He retired to Bolivia, where until 2008 he was still teaching calculus.

Still a big name

When news vans pulled up to Garfield's front lawn last Monday morning, campus officials had no clue why they were there. Then the phones began ringing. Offers of donations poured in. Roses arrived at the front desk. Throughout the week, outsiders kept asking Assistant Principal Alfredo Montes questions. But he had few answers.

Escalante's name still means something nationally. His image is captured on murals in East Los Angeles and Westlake. But inside the old high school where he did his greatest work, there is hardly a trace of the former teacher. His name is rarely mentioned. There is no scholarship, no plaque, no poster. And though some of his former students are now teachers there, two of them math instructors, few were eager to talk about him.

What remains is his old classroom, MH-1. It is a portable room near the center of the campus, with stadium seating, ideal for his college-like classes. The building is nondescript except for a red, white and blue sign outside: "Jaime A. Escalante Math Center GANAS."

MH-1 will be demolished this summer to make way for an auditorium. Montes said the school plans to landscape the site and place a small plaque on it in Escalante's honor.

The school is one of the lowest-performing in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

"Outsiders hear the story and they think we live it here every day, but that's not the case," Montes said. "This is the place he taught, where kids succeeded against all odds, but it's not something you can use as a battle cry all the time. You would go nuts."

Many medications

In Reno, Escalante's schedule is dictated not by school bells but by about two dozen medications -- pills, liquids, teas and ointments that must be swallowed, sipped and applied every few hours to soothe his many aches. In a few days, he will finish his three-week treatment and return with his son to Northern California. His wife, Fabiola, is expected to fly in from Bolivia.

His time here has been quiet, except on days when a few relatives and old friends like Olmos have flown in to visit. On Friday, Escalante's longtime friend and former Garfield colleague Angelo Villavicencio stood by his side.

"Defense, defense!" Villavicencio, 59, challenged Escalante as he struggled to swallow a blue-green liquid. With those same words, the teacher used to pump up students before their big math exams.

The two reminisced about the Garfield days, when the maestro and his protege taught side by side. Villavicencio said Escalante often told him that leaving the school was one of the biggest mistakes of his life.

"Those years at Garfield, we were in a great daze," Villavicencio said. "We were high because of the atmosphere that he created for us."

Escalante sat quietly listening, the hands that once ground chalk into the blackboard resting on his rail-thin legs. Every now and then he pushed himself, between dry coughs and wheezes, to talk -- not of his pain or his fate but of his favorite aphorisms.

"Determination. Plus discipline. Plus hard work. That is the path."

"I can do it. I'm be best. I'm gonna prove it."

"No student is smarter than my student."

"Believe, believe. Believe in your kids. They will surprise you."

The motivational posters and banners that once plastered his classroom walls are gone. So are his many scrapbooks and his props -- stuffed animals, cleavers and hats. Few people still call him Kemo or Kemo Sabe, as students once nicknamed him, after the Lone Ranger. But the students' names live on vividly in his mind: Sergio Valdez, Thomas Valdez, Ana Macias, Elsa Bolado, Roy Marquez, Aili Gardea, Jema Leyva.

"My kids," he calls them.

Lessons remain

It's not so much that they use calculus. Some haven't since they left his class decades ago. But many of Escalante's former students say much of what he taught them serves them well day after day. In their minds, they still hear Kemo push them to think methodically, to work hard, to be bold, to never offer excuses.

At Garfield, Escalante called Jeannie Moreno "La Lopez," her maiden surname. Later, when she found herself alone in Washington state attending law school, she thought of her teacher.

"I could still feel that confidence, that foundation he built in me, and when I needed it I was able to pull from it," said the family attorney, who now lives in Monterey Park.

Sergio Valdez, a mechanical engineer, said Escalante once pushed him to drop his liquor-store job for a gig as a math tutor. Now he works at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He carries with him the belief that he can accomplish anything.

"Everything I've done, I owe to him," Valdez said.

Escalante used to tease Jema Estrella for leaving class early to play basketball. Now, when the architect, who works for Los Angeles County, feels pulled in too many directions, she says, "I keep thinking of what he told us: 'Don't be intimidated. Understand where you want to go with the problem. Break it down.' "

Their experience with Escalante opened doors to universities and scholarships and jobs. They still wear their time with him like a badge of honor. In public speeches, they mention his name. They repeat his advice to their children.

And now that Escalante is nearing the end of his journey, they think of what they will one day leave behind.

"I'm hopeful that I can have at least a 100th of the influence he had," said Angel Navarro, a defense attorney who landed in Escalante's calculus class 28 years ago. "His legacy lives through me and many, many others."


Copyright © 2010, The Los Angeles Times

Friday, March 5, 2010

Next Meeting March 25 The Literacy Project: Reading for Understanding

Become a mentor and mean something to someone who needs you.

Our first meeting was held last night to introduce mentors to the staff of El Centro del Barrio.  Given traffic, distance, last minute snafus, the meeting was very successful and exciting and the next meeting is set for MARCH 25 5pm to 7pm.  We hope all interested mentors and others will be there.

We seem to have settled on some vocabulary.  We are mentors and the students, who may range from 10 to 18, are "participants".  At the mentors' first meeting with the participants, tentatively set for April 5, we will have one-on-one meetings in which each participant with a parent will interview and be interviewed by each mentor for 5 to 10 minutes before moving to the next interview.

We're also setting up a the timeline for the next three months as well as the exact dates for mentors to work with the participants.  Time slots will be set at either 4:00, 5:00, 6:00 or 7:00. The staff of El Centro del Barrio will always be available to back up, coach and support the mentors as well as the participants with whom they work.

Reading for Comprehension, the text basis for the pedagogical work of the mentors - who will be giving and getting so much more than a mere "teaching" experience - will be donated to the mentors by El Centro.  Thank you Sandra Figueroa for your constant support and thank you El Centro staff as well.

I will post a summary of the text Reading for Comprehension over the coming days.  For now, a brief sampling plus an article I recently read in the LA Times which should remind us that

Reading is not just a basic skill.

Reading is a complex process. Think for a moment about the last thing you read. An El Centro del Barrio bulletin? A newspaper analysis of education in California? A report on tax credits if you buy energy saving appliances? (see below).  If you could recapture your mental processing you would notice that you read with reference to a particular world of knowledge and experience related to the text with which you are familiar already, before you began to read the material.

by Kathy M. Kristof

It takes a lot of energy to figure out if you qualify for this tax credit

Taxpayers who replaced items such as furnaces, water heaters and even windows with more energy-efficient models in 2009 may get the break, but the rules are complex.

I wasn't thinking about tax credits when my 12-year-old water heater went on the fritz last fall. I was thinking about a hot shower.

I called the plumber. A few sticky days and $1,000 later, I had hot water.

Now, like millions of other consumers, I faced a tax challenge.

The federal government decided to reward taxpayers who made their homes more energy efficient in 2009 by creating a series of tax credits for those who replaced furnaces, water heaters, air conditioners, insulation, doors, roofs, skylights and windows with more energy-efficient models.

But trying to figure out whether the things you bought qualify for one of these rewards is bedeviling to even the sagest of experts.

I asked Mark Luscombe, principal tax analyst with CCH Inc. and one of the nation's most careful and quoted tax authorities, to explain what equipment qualifies. Luscombe responded by reading a long paragraph, loaded with references to U-factors and BTUs, out of an IRS technical ruling.

I was confused. The words were in English and there were lots of them, but that was about the limit of my comprehension. When I asked Luscombe what it all meant, he paused and chuckled.

"I have no idea," he said.

I'll save you details about the dozens of phone calls that ensued and cut to the crux of the matter: If you completed your energy improvements early in the year, you're (almost) home free.

Until June 1, 2009, you could rely on the label or the manufacturer's assurance that the equipment you bought met the requirements of the government's Energy Star program. That could land you a tax credit that amounts to 30% of the cost of buying and, sometimes, installing this equipment.

But, if you bought later in the year, like I did -- particularly if you acted without thinking about the credit when buying -- you'll earn every dollar of that credit in sweat equity. You're going to have to go on something of a treasure hunt to figure out whether the stuff you bought qualifies for the credit.

"It's very complex," acknowledged Karen Schneider, manager for the government's Energy Star website, which aims to explain the tax credits.

"It's very hard for a consumer to know the information they're supposed to know to do it right," she added.

Part of what makes the process complicated is that the rules changed a couple of times during the year.

The tax law had no 2009 energy credits until Feb. 17, when President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, otherwise known as the economic stimulus bill. In that bill, Congress revived a series of energy tax incentives that had expired at the end of 2007.

Instead of making the tax credits effective on the date the law was signed, Congress made the credits retroactive to the beginning of 2009. But the law also tightened the requirements to get the credits.

Because Congress had telegraphed its intention to revive the 2007 credits, there was a debate about whether it was fair to tighten the rules without warning the people who bought their storm doors in January. Thus lawmakers said the people who bought by Feb. 17 could be governed by the 2007 rules.

Then the window people complained, Energy Star's Schneider said.

Assuming that the revived energy credits would be good for business, window companies had built up inventories of sashes and sliding glass doors that would meet those old requirements. The new requirements were stricter, leaving the companies with warehouses full of suddenly unattractive panes.

Tax authorities responded with a ruling that said the old rules would apply to windows through May, giving these manufacturers a chance to unload their inventory.

Naturally that sort of favoritism didn't play well with manufacturers of furnaces, water heaters, air conditioners, roofing material and insulation, which had inventory too.

By the time the IRS printed tax forms and instructions in late 2009, the agency had changed the rules to give people who bought any energy-efficient equipment before June the ability to take a credit as long as they were willing to say they had "relied on the manufacturer's certification issued before Feb. 19, 2008, that the purchases met the standards in effect before Feb. 18, 2009."

How you would know when the manufacturer issued its certification is a mystery, Schneider said. But if you bought before June last year, you have a loophole. Go with it.

If you bought after that, you'll have to wade through standards peppered with references to U-factors, BTUs, thermal efficiency and the like. These are not details that are listed on your window or your water heater.

To figure out if your equipment meets the requirements, you need to get the name of the manufacturer and the model number. You can find this either on the unit itself, on your invoice or you can get it from your contractor.

With that information, you can go to the manufacturer's website. Many manufacturers prominently advertise the models that qualify for the credits on their home pages, said Mark Petrarca, senior vice president of public affairs for A.O. Smith, the South Carolina company that made my water heater.

What if your manufacturer doesn't? Check out Near the bottom of the home page, there's a link for "Tax Credits for Energy Efficiency." Click on it.

This page is split into two sections -- one for the residential energy credits we've been talking about, and a second for people who revamped their homes to add solar energy systems, geothermal heat pumps or wind turbines.

Unless you went hog-wild on energy efficiency last year, you can skip that second section and look up the equipment you bought in the first section.

So if you replaced a gas water heater, you'd click on that link to find out that your heater would need to have an "energy factor" of at least 0.82 or a "thermal efficiency rating" of at least 90%. Armed with that information, you can return to your manufacturer's website and look up "spec sheets" for your purchase, which divulge all those technical factoids.

If your appliance or other improvement does qualify for the break, you're not done. Now you need to fill out IRS Form 5695 to claim your credit. That form should be filed with your tax return. You'll need to keep the receipts for the equipment you bought, as well as the certification that it meets the energy guidelines in your tax records, in case you get audited.

Me? My water heater didn't qualify. Luckily, I can drown my sorrows in a hot shower.

Copyright © 2010, The Los Angeles Times

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Waste Land, Audience Award Winning Documentary at Berlin Film Festival's Panorama

Become a tutor mentor and show you care about social issues in our society today.

At the Berlin Film Festival's Panorama, the audience award went to WASTE LAND a documentary created by Vik Muniz.  Muniz was born very poor in São Paulo in 1961. Today he is widely regarded to be one of Brazil’s most significant contemporary artists and shows internationally including the Museum of Modern Art in NY. He makes use of all sorts of material – including food and rubbish – in order to create his large works of art; he has also often demonstrated his dedication to social issues.

In WASTE LAND Lucy Walker provides a record of one of his most elaborate projects – an installation in ‘Jardim Gramacho’, one of the largest garbage dumps in the world. The dump is located on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, where the poorest of the poor live. Many of these people earn a living from the rubbish, which they recycle in many different ways. Known as ‘Catadores’ or ‘pluckers’, Vik Muniz collaborates with many of them on his project.

One of them is Tiao, a charistmatic dreamer who has founded a Catadores cooperative. Another is bookworm Zumbi, who is a real intellectual who collects all the books he finds in the dump and donated them to the cooperative where Tiao reads them. Eighteen-year-old Suelen, who is already mother of two children and is pregnant with a third has been working at the rubbish dump since she was seven years old and is proud that she has never had to work as a prostitute.

Guided by Vik Muniz, these and other workers create extraordinary work of art which involves them shaping of self-portraits in and from the rubbish. The work changes not only their view of themselves, but also their view of the world.

Waste Land is available in the US through Arthouse Films.

First Meeting March 4 5-7...Please come!

Become a mentor!

Just an update to all who are interested. We hope you are all interested and will attend our first meeting

This Thursday March 4 at 5 – 7 pm

El Centro Del Pueblo
1157 Lemoyne St.,
Echo Park CA 90026

(That’s just off Sunset, just east of Alvarado)

The mentors and advisors of The Literacy Project will meet the administration of El Centro Del Pueblo.
(So far we have about 10 mentors and need 6 more.)

We will discuss

- -who we are
- -who the staff is
- -who the children we will work with are and
- -why they are being recommended for this one hour weekly mentoring program.

Other points of discussion will include

- What is the overall idea of mentoring:
- Personal communication leading to awareness of learning styles and skills needed to read and write, cooperative reading and writing leading to sustained reading
- Evaluating progress
- Confidentiality
- Creating an interview for mentors and students the next meeting
- The date of the weekly meetings and times

We’ll also go over the Volunteers Handbook!

Please keep a copy of these emails for your future reference and look at the blog at http://TheLiteracyProject– Your comments are welcome.

And order from Amazon (prices start at $8.99) READING FOR UNDERSTANDING by Ruth Schoenbach.

Sydney Levine


Become a mentor!


Interest based discussions which will lead to reading and writing.

Activity is personal AND interpersonal with the mentor and the mentee

Reading and writing is a mutal shared process

First stage:

- We will talk about things we are happy and excited about, things that are difficult. In reading, comprehension, writing or pictures will be a shared exercise.

- Practice with mentor little by little

- Insider/ outsider: How teachers had to learn something, want children to talk to assess where child is.

- Have you ever seen a book or movie or TV you really liked?

- At home, what do people there read? What are your feelings about that?

- What do you like to do?

Second stage: personal reading and writing history includes family.

- Let’s write a story about things you like to do…will you write it or shall I?

- Let’s read this together…me, you or read together

- Then and Now: feelings about reading and writing:

o What’s hard?

o In writing story

Third stage: LEARNING TO CHOOSE A BOOK: Their view counts.

- Look at some books and magazines…

- Put into piles : Like/ Don’t like.

- Choose 5 things

- Pick 1 or 2 we’ll look at together, talk about them:

o the cover, pictures, interesting?

o Pictures, some chapter titles

o What’s it about?

o Have you ever read others like this? (detective, science, etc)

o Converse before reading

o Surfacing prior knowledge

o Would you like me to read? You read? One page me, one page you?

o After finishing: Talk about it: like, dislike, anything like that in your life?


o Shall we write something about the story?

o What could happen next to the person it’s about?

o Or tell a story about you.



- ONSET: Beginning sounds of words

- RIME: Endings of works like –ant, -tion, -ment


- Usually this is easier than the basics from A to Z.

- Find these words in what you have written (with endings, beginnings, e.g.,

o walks – ed

o jumps – ed

o whispers – ed


- Learning meanings of parts of words as well, e.g.,

o Do – undo

o Do – redo

- How words fit together

IF KIDS SPEAK SPANISH, then read and write in Spanish – VERY IMPORTANT

AND TEACH PARENTS - This solidifies knowledge they have achieved.

(A good read is Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed.

Have lots of books available.

Volunteer plan – mentors, administration of students to mentors, grant writing, film component, field trips, telenovela production, and whatever else volunteers come up with as possible extensions of their interests.