Better Together: N.J. Libraries partner with Literacy Groups to Bring ESL Training to Residents

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Courtesy of American Libraries

Three Essex County (N.J.) libraries—Bloomfield, Montclair, and South Orange—have joined together to provide literacy assistance to all county residents.

Located just outside Newark and New York City, the county’s libraries serve a population diverse in background, ethnicity, economic status, and education. Roughly one-third of its population speaks a language other than English. In recent years, South Orange has seen an influx of Haitian immigrants actively seeking English-language learning opportunities.

Working with Literacy Volunteers of America, the public libraries of Essex County provided publicity and space for volunteer training, instruction, conversation groups, and individual and small group tutoring.

The initiative values innovation and offers ample opportunity for outreach and collaboration with community organizations such as the Adult School of South Orange and Maplewood, which promoted the program to target populations.

“With the American Dream Starts @ your library funds, we were able to add much more to the English as a second language (ESL) materials than we had before,” says Lin-dita Cani, head of reference and library services for the South Orange Public Library. These materials included DVDs and CD-ROMs.

“People use them a lot,” she says. “It’s made our life easier. We didn’t have the funds before to purchase more materials.”

Lydia Samatar, ESL instructor, has been working with Anabella Cirrincione, a student from Argentina who wanted to improve her English when she came to the library and learned about the program.

“It’s been really helpful for me,” Cirrincione says. “I want to learn English and also to travel. I have been traveling all around, from Chicago to Miami. I have friends from different countries. I like to know about different cultures.”

“We have a lot of fun,” Samatar adds.

Ayesha Makhdoom, a junior library assistant, says her mother, who is from Pakistan, went through the program. “She had a great tutor who helped her out, not only in learning English but also in getting the basic idea of the culture of living in the US,” she says. “You don’t realize, but even grocery shopping is completely different here than it would be in Pakistan.”

For more information visit the American Dream Starts @ your library toolkit.

Learn more about the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, including how to make a donation.

The library’s ESL lessons  have provided students with practical advice, such as how to go grocery shopping.

Working with Literacy Volunteers of America, the public libraries of Essex County, New Jersey, provide publicity and space for volunteer training, instruction, conversation groups, and tutoring.

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