New Jersey Libraries Team Up to Teach Valuable Language Skills Through American Dream Starts @ your library Grant

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Three New Jersey libraries are teaming for results in the area of community engagement.

Through an American Dream Starts @ your library grant provided by the American Library Association and the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, three Essex (N.J.) County libraries - Bloomfield, Montclair, and South Orange - have established a partnership to provide literacy assistance to all Essex County residents.

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. South Orange in particular has seen an influx of Haitian immigrants actively seeking English language learning.

Through their partnership, and in conjunction with the Literacy Volunteers of America (LVA), the public libraries of Essex County provided publicity and space for volunteer training, instruction, conversation groups, and individual/small group tutoring. 

The initiative values new ideas 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 ESL materials than we had before,” said Lindita 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 said. “It’s…made our life easier. We didn’t have the funds before to purchase more materials.”

The South Orange program joins a cohort of over 100 previously funded American Dream libraries. These libraries have built easily replicable programs, developed coalition-building strategies, and provided annotated lists of proven resources for libraries across the country serving adult English language learners. All American Dream libraries are located within 20 miles of a Dollar General Store, distribution center, or corporate office. 

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.