Support Adult Literacy and Learning at Jacksonville Public Library

Our founder, Jean Ulmer Brinkman, had a big dream – to give every adult in Jacksonville the opportunity and the right tools to learn to read.

The Library’s Center for Adult Learning (CAL) and our partners at the Literacy Alliance of Northeast Florida (formerly known as Learn to Read Jacksonville) wouldn’t be what they are today—places where adults can learn to read, learn English and prepare for the GED Test —without the vision, innovation and passion of literacy advocates like Jean. 

Photo of Jean with balloons
Jean Brinkman, founder of CAL and Learn to Read.

#How It All Started

Jean found her calling to work with adults from working with young students in Duval County Public Schools from 1976 – 1981. As a teacher in special education, she saw students whose learning needs weren’t being met; they were falling behind, labeled disruptive, and likely to drop out of school at age 16. She felt that these students would seek help in later life when they became breadwinners or grandparents but saw few options for adult learners.

Jean taught school during the day and attended the University of North Florida in the evenings, working on a master’s degree in special education. Research for her senior thesis on computer-assisted learning led her to explore the use of computers as a way to help people learn to read.

#The Computers and Literacy Program

Determined to get the program underway, Jean sought help from a grant writer at Florida State College at Jacksonville. An avid reader and big believer in libraries, Jean next approached the library for a place to house the computers and the adult learning program. In 1984 the first CAL—Computers and Literacy program for adults—in the state of Florida was established in the Haydon Burns Library. Since then, CAL (now the Center for Adult Learning) has helped thousands of adults fulfill their educational goals.

#Champions for Adult Learners

Through the years, many individuals, foundations and corporations have come to understand the work Jean began at the Haydon Burns Library. Adult education is an investment that returns far more than it costs and contributes to the strength and resilience of our community.

According to the National Coalition for Literacy, individuals who participate in adult education programs have higher incomes, resulting in more spending and higher tax revenue for their community. They also have higher participation in civic activities like voting and better health outcomes, leading to greater workplace productivity and a reduction in community health care costs.

#A Legacy for Literacy

Unfortunately, Jean passed away from ALS in 2013.

Knowing the impact and the importance of the work that Jean started here, Walter Brinkman, Jean’s devoted husband of 49 years, and the Presbyterian Women of Riverside Presbyterian Church helped to establish a memorial scholarship to benefit CAL students in financial need.

“There’s not much you can do if you’re 30 years old and don’t have a diploma,” said Walt.

Walter Brinkman standing beside Jean Brinkman's plaque in the Center for Adult Learning
Walter Brinkman standing beside Jean Brinkman's commemorative plaque.

#Give to the Center for Adult Learning

Since 2014, the Jean Ulmer Brinkman Memorial Scholarship Fund has helped hundreds of adult learners realize their own dreams of earning a high school diploma by covering the costs of GED materials and testing.

With 200,000 functionally illiterate adults reading below the sixth-grade level in Duval County today, Walter Brinkman believes there’s more reason than ever to give to the fund and to help the Center for Adult Learning at Jacksonville Public Library continue to grow. 

Gifts to this fund can be made through the Jacksonville Public Library Foundation and are tax-deductible. 

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