REDLANDS — Reading books like "Clifford the Big Red Dog" was a chance for 11-year-old Tifaha Farha to bond with her mother, Salwa. Not only did it improve Tifaha's reading skills at Bryn Mawr Elementary School, it taught her mother something as well.

"She helps me with my reading because it wasn't that good," said Salwa Farha, who acknowledges that her heavy Arabic accent can be a challenge for her children as well when speaking English. "Now, she can help me with her [younger] brothers and sisters."

Tifaha struggled with her reading abilities before she joined the Redlands' Boys and Girls Club Bright Spot for Literacy Program five years ago. Today, she's no longer embarrassed about speaking around others and is eager to read more books from the library.

"She's happy," Farha said. "A lot of things have changed with her."

Over the years, the Bright Spot program has assisted at least 500 students in San Bernardino and Riverside counties with homework and tutoring aimed at improving their literacy skills. The program targets mostly students from low-income and immigrant families, according to Mark Davis, the club's vice president.

Many participants complete more than 500 hours of reading throughout the academic year, Davis said. They also tend to increase their reading ability by one or two grade levels, according to test results.

Matthew Flores, an 8-year-old Bryn Mawr Elementary student, has already seen some of the benefits. He said the program has taught him to write more clearly and spell out words to help with his pronunciation.

Davis said the program helps build students' confidence and in turn helps improve overall academic performance. "We give them tools to empower themselves to learn how to read and do better in school," Davis said.

Through the generosity of Times readers and a match by the McCormick Foundation, $424,500 was granted to local literacy programs this year as a result of the Los Angeles Times Holiday Campaign.

The Holiday Campaign, part of the Los Angeles Times Family Fund, a McCormick Foundation Fund, raises contributions to support established literacy programs run by nonprofit organizations that serve low-income children, adults and families who are reading below grade levels, at risk of illiteracy or who have limited English proficiency.

Donations are tax deductible as permitted by law and matched at 50 cents on the dollar. Donor information is not traded or published without permission. Donate online at or by calling (800) 518-3975. All gifts will receive a written acknowledgment.