ESL Without Barriers: Library Helps Parents Connect with Their Kids Through Language

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The Athens–Clarke County (Ga.) Library Pinewoods branch is a small library with a big heart. Located in a mobile home park and housed in a double-wide manufactured home, the library serves 19,000 in the
greater Athens area.

Adult immigrants often make Pinewoods Library and Learning Center their first stop after arriving in the Athens area. The library is enabling these new residents to develop English-language skills that better equip  them to thrive in American society and communicate with their children.

Many of the English-language learners at Pinewoods are parents with children in local schools. Immigrant children entering US schools usually want to communicate only in English and often serve as interpreters for their parents, which can create embarrassment if their parents can’t understand or respond to messages the school sends home.

Aida Quiñones, branch manager at Pinewoods Library and Learning Center, says, “[The adults’] goal is to be able to communicate in English, be able to talk to their own kids, because there is a little gap in language.”

Improving literacy

Pinewoods has received the American Dream Starts @ your library grants in the past, which have helped it improve literacy services through volunteer training, book and AV purchases, and publicity outreach. With the latest round of funding, Pinewoods is expanding existing literacy services that enable adults to learn how to read, write, and converse in English. By gaining this ability, adults rely less on their children to help them communicate in English with other adults.

With the new grant funds, the library is improving technology used for English-language learning. Purchases included a television for viewing literacy training
and promotional videos produced with a previous American Dream grant and “Inglés sin Barreras to Go,” a portable version of Inglés sin Barreras (English without Barriers)—a self-study ESL course for Spanish speakers in the US—that can be borrowed from the library.

Pinewoods’ English literacy patrons are largely from the mobile home park and surrounding community. Many are recent immigrants to the US, mostly from Mexico, but some are also from other Latin American countries. Others have been residents for a few years and are well-established in the community.

“The kids want to be part of this culture,” says Quiñones. “They start speaking English and they start forgetting to speak Spanish at home, and it’s creating this communication gap with the parents. We feel it’s something that we
can help with through these classes.”

She said the library has become the hub of information for most people.

“People come here to find out where to send their kids to school, where to find jobs,” Quiñones says. “The American Dream grant has helped a lot with our classes, because now we have a full-time teacher, and we have purchased the materials needed for the class to be successful.”

For more information, view the following video or visit the American Dream Starts @ your library toolkit.

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

Patrons at Athens–Clarke County (Ga.) Library’s Pinewood branch display cerficates for completion of computer class.
English-language education class at Athens–Clarke County (Ga.) Library’s Pinewood branch.