Building a Bridge Between the Oral Tradition and English Literacy
At the Little Priest Tribal College (LPTC) and Winnebago Public Library we do a number of innovative things. At least one of the programs we offer I have not heard of anywhere else. We call it "Reading on Request". It comes out of our experience with story time failure. People just did not want to come to the library with their preschoolers on Saturday for a story time. Now, whenever a child comes to the library, they can ask to have a story read. In a month's time, our children's librarian reads from 200 to 250 books aloud both in and out of the library.
We began to think about this when we noticed that students entering our college could not read or write at college level. One of the reasons was that most children in Winnebago were not read aloud to at home. We began to heavily promote reading aloud as a way to encourage school success. This is just one of the programs we are doing. We also have a liaison with the prenatal program at the hospital where we promote reading to infants, even prior to birth. We are developing a program where each new mother gets a packet of gifts and information from the library including a gift certificate for a free board book, a baby t-shirt that says, "Read to me!", and a pamphlet explaining all the good reasons for reading to your baby.
Today's 11th graders are the first ones who ever benefitted by these programs, and we are looking forward to seeing if our hard work is paying off.
Another service is building an audiobook collection. We have approximately 500 titles in this collection now. It helps students and others build a listening vocabulary, a necessary precursor to reading. Our children's librarian also takes books to all the day care and preschools in town and reads aloud once a week to each group. Another program we developed is taking reading aloud and library books to the teens at the Youth Center, which houses young adults in court-ordered detention, a substance-abuse treatment group, and a shelter for abused or neglected children. This program circulates as many as 20 books or magazines every week,in addition to the ones read aloud.
We read some research that shows that the more print there is in a community the higher the literacy level, and the more success there is in school. We started soliciting donations of books so that we could do book give-aways. We also have low-cost book sales frequently. We have donated boxes of books to day-care centers, schools, family literacy programs and other public libraries in Thurston County.
You can check our progress on the Nebraska Report Card web site by looking up Winnebago Public Schools.
Enhancing ESL Services
Approximately one-third of the 200 adult learners in the Ruth G. Hardman Adult Literacy Service at the Tulsa City County Library are English language learners. Spanish is the native language for 59 percent of these learners, but learners’ countries of origin are diverse and include Israel, Pakistan, India, Korea, Taiwan, and Iran as well. In December of 2005, the literacy program received an unsolicited grant to improve literacy services. Responding to the expressed needs of literacy tutors and the increasing number of English language learners, staff decided to broaden the program’s ESL (English as a Second Language) services. The resulting program was called “Bridges” and includes three components.
Feedback from literacy tutors indicated a need for increased staff support to tutors working with ESL students. While comprehensive, the training for literacy tutors is primarily focused on working with basic literacy students, many of whom have characteristics of learning disabilities. An ESL student may read very well, but struggle to retain information he or she hears. ESL students often express a need to work on their pronunciation and listening and speaking skills. To improve services to tutors, the Literacy Specialist conducted in-services for tutors. These workshops included instructional guidelines and implications, assessment and evaluation tools, teaching strategies and tips, and recommended materials and online resources. Tutors who attended the ESL workshops received a personal copy of Teaching Adults: An ESL Resource Book.
Because progress in a second language depends heavily upon one’s exposure to that language, the literacy program wanted to provide additional opportunities for students to practice their English listening and speaking skills. The literacy program developed and facilitated “Conversation Circles,” a chance for ESL students to practice their conversation skills in a friendly, relaxed environment. The classes were loosely structured around the textbook Let’s Talk.
Parenting for Academic Success
This curriculum was created by the National Center for Family Literacy and the Center for Applied Linguistics and has a two fold purpose: to develop the English language skills of parents and to increase the ability of parents to support the language and literacy development of their children in kindergarten through grade three. The literacy program purchased this curriculum and conducted a series for parents of children attending Newcomers’ Elementary. Participants in this program received copies of the Parenting for Academic Success workbooks along with children’s books that supplemented each lesson.