American Dream Starts @ your library

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

By on 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. “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.

Becoming New Americans: Students—and teachers—find library citizenship program has much to offer

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The Schaumburg Township (Ill.) District Library in Chicago’s northwest suburbs promotes citizenship training as well as English as a second language (ESL) courses. Schaumburg, home to several global corporations, attracts workers from around the world. As a result, the library found that citizenship training was very much in demand.

Pat Barch, literacy coordinator for the library, says, “Our American Dream project is really very important to us, because the library has been providing citizenship classes for about five years now.”

Speaking Your Language: Illinois Library Reflects its Community’s Diversity Through Collections and Services

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The Eisenhower Public Library District (EPLD) in Norridge and Harwood Heights, Illinois, serves a diverse array of foreign-language speakers, with more than 50% of its residents speaking a language other than English at home, including Italian, Polish, and Spanish.

Penny Blubaugh, teen and programming librarian at EPLD, says, “It’s a very diverse population. We’re almost like the first community you come to, a welcoming community to the United States.”

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.

Bridging Cultures: New Immigrants Add to the Fabric of Their Community

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The Township of Plainsboro, New Jersey, is known for the global pharmaceutical corporations and advanced technology laboratories that call it home. Located between the Philadelphia and New York metropolitan areas, the community attracts a diverse population from all corners of the globe. More than 46% of its residents speak a language other than English at home—and the number is growing.

American Dream recipient, Greenwood County Library System, is anything but run of the mill

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Greenwood County, South Carolina’s roots date back to the late 1800s, when it established its blue-collar identity. When Greenwood County Library System Director Prudence Taylor arrived at the library in 1997, the unemployment rate was 4 percent. But that changed when the mills, which had been sustaining the community, closed after 2000.  As a result, at one point, unemployment was as high as 11 percent.

“People had planned to work for the mills all their lives, as their fathers and grandfathers had done,” said Taylor.

The population also changed, as more Latino residents moved in to work at the meat packing plant. When a newspaper article brought attention to the growing need of these new residents, the library began moving toward beefing up its bilingual and ESL collections to serve this burgeoning population.

American Dream Starts @ your library grant allows CA library to expand ESL classes

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A California library system is providing opportunities for patrons who wish to expand their horizons by learning English. Through an American Dream Starts @ your library grant awarded by the Dollar General Literacy Foundation to the American Library Association, the Riverside County (Calif.) Library System has been able to expand ESL classes for adult learners.

American Dream Series: Strengthening Relationships Between Libraries and Volunteers

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With nearly 400 volunteers, the Mt. Lebanon Public Library has a strong base of volun- teers. Through its American Dream project, it acquired a few more volunteers from a place it didn’t expect: through its ESL classes and English conversation groups.

Some students who are just beginning to speak English have turned out to be enthusiastic volunteers, eager to contribute to their new communities. Students have helped with recycling, organizing books and magazines and other tasks. An adult English student from Japan and the daughter of an English student from Syria teamed up to present a class on origami at the library after the Japanese student noticed the girl’s interest in it.