Like The Queen
Whatever happens to strike my fancy, but surely some sort of fiber content.

3 Comments:

Dearest, you have done the library, and the community, a GREAT service. I am proud to know you...

By Blogger Amie, at 3:58 PM  

It's very rewarding to help ESL students. You might want to try to contact the Literacy Volunteers in your area they are usually part of United Way. I am a tutor for them and we help ESL students. Right now, I have a group of students that are Ukranian, Polish, Greek, Mexican and Brazilian. I'm helping to learn computer skills. It's funny too how they are all those different nationalities and yet they all get along.--Annie

By Blogger Annie Newton, at 5:55 AM  

We will be working with the adult ed folk, but we don't actually have a literacy volunteer program in our county and since there are no large businesses either, we can't participate in United Way. But we do have a wonderful adult ed program and there is a great program at the Catholic church. We'll be working with them both. It's all really exciting and my staff is almost as pumped as if they'd gotten a raise. (of course, not quite, but almost)

By Blogger Bess, at 8:33 AM  

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Friday, October 08, 2004  

I overslept this morning and am dragging a bit right now. About the middle of the afternoon yesterday that slight tightening of my throat whispered BEWARE - and I knew that either I’d been exposed to one of those autumnal alergens that can lay me low or to someone’s nasty cold virus. I’m on Claritin and aspirin and the throat tightening isn’t going away - that’s a suspicious cold alert. Rats.

But my body sometimes likes to throw me a curve, especially when I’m keyed up about something that both scares me and tempts me and thrills me and last night we had just such an event. The library’s first, ever, family night for English as a second language families.

Bit o background here. I live in a little community of only 10,000 people, settled in the 17th century by mostly Englishmen, with a sprinkling of other European types, Africans, and the native Rappahannock tribe. With a little variation here and there, the population has stayed the same for nigh on to 400 years. About a dozen years ago Spanish speaking men, mostly single men, started showing up, mostly working on the large truck farms and vinyards across the river. Over time, though, families began to appear, the Spanish food section in Walmart has grown to an entire isle, even a Spanish grocery store has opened up in town. It was always my intention that the moment there were families with children in the school system, the library would find ways of making itself part of their lives. There is nothing, in my opinion, so important for an immigrant family, than to learn the language of their community. It’s our mission to gather, make available, spread and share, the ideas, the knowledge and the language of this community. I can rise pretty high in my flights of ambition and mission, but I do take my work seriously. I believe we come second after food, clothing, shelter and perhaps spirituality and we are hand in hand with all of them. Libraries really are the teach-a-man-to-fish center. Or - if we aren’t - we durn well should be.

There is also a little personal confession here. As a young girl, perhaps more than anyone else, I admired Jane Addams, of Hull House fame. I do think it’s important for immigrants to learn how to live in their new home, but I also think it’s important for those of us who are already here to do things to help them learn. So a little bit of me is full of youthful zeal and enthusiasm about following, in my own way, in my heroine’s footsteps.

In preparation, I’ve hired a tutor to teach all library staff how to say some basic phrases, particularly library type phrases such as “your books are due back in three weeks” or “the bathroom is through those doors, by the water fountain”. This seemed more valuable than sending one person to a Spanish class - although as I’ve started studying our handouts, I’m thinking of doing that myself. What a beautiful language! We had about 30 tape recorders bought for a project years ago and never used. Those have been cataloged so that if someone takes out our LearnToSpeakEnglish tapes they’ll have something to play them on. We also bought a good selection of bi-lingual children’s books for parents to read to their small children, and by the way, practice their own English.

Six fathers and one mom, with about half a dozen children showed up, along with the ESL teacher from the schools. All my staff were there and one board member, a wonderful happy woman who speaks a little Spanish and runs one of the employment agencies in town. Thursday nights are slow here anyway so we had an opportunity to spread all over the library. Our program last night was all about the library and what we offered, but we plan other programs throughout the winter about other community services. Everybody had a fantastic time, all the families got cards, including the school aged children - beautiful girls named Perla and Vanessa with big brown eyes and shy, yet confident, smiles.

I was as nervous as a witch about it all week. Partly because it was a new step into the unknown. Partly it was because I’m not sure we’ll really have anything they can use - or that we can convince them that what we have will be valuable to them. We’ll see how things develop as the year rolls on. Everyone had fun last night, but the test will be if any of these families start using the library on their own, not as a response to an invitation.

Twenty six years ago, when I began working at the library, it was part of the Woman’s Club of Essex. It was used almost exclusively by middle aged white women and the few white children who lived in town. It’s not that way now - because we have made the effort to invite in African Americans, teens, middle schoolers, businessmen, retirees. I’m mighty proud of the progress we’ve made. I’m pretty excited about the opportunity we have now, to include a new, vibrant, hard-working, family oriented group of folk in all the fun. I’m pretty excited about the opportunity I have now, to learn a new language and meet some new people. I’m not sure which is the most exciting.

But that’s what I had waiting for me when I went back to work this week and I have to confess - it was too scary to write about till today. Whew. Yea! Thank Goodness It’s Friday!

posted by Bess | 8:08 AM
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