Saturday, July 13, 2013

Break the Cycle Infographic and Reading Advancement

Lately, it seems to me that the meaning of statistics are being better communicated by organizations through the use of infographics.  Take for instance this infographic from Reading Horizons.  It's amazing how poverty, crime, and low literacy are linked.  The last figure given at the bottom of the infographic was what caught my attention the most because it hits home. 

We use Reading Horizons at the Berwyn Public Library with our adult learners.  After just 40-60 hours of instruction, adult learners can improve their reading ability by 2-3 grade levels.  This is double the gain that is typically seen through small group tutoring or one-to-one tutoring alone.

This just blows me away because I am actually involved with two programs right now.  In addition to the adult learning program at the library, I am also managing the adult literacy program for Literacy Volunteers of Western Cook County.  For the benefit of all of our learners, we need to see results more like what can be achieved with Reading Horizons than by tutoring alone.  That's why I can't wait to see what our results will look like after the first year of making available the print-based version of Reading Horizons for our tutors.  This new program year is going to be unbelievably exciting!

Friday, July 5, 2013

The Citizenship Whisperer - Seattle, WA

Here's a really fantastic article about a volunteer citizenship instructor.  As an aside, I am so glad we have two of our very own citizenship volunteers at the Berwyn Public Library.  Susan is a retired civics teacher who brings her love of geography, history, and government to our Citizenship Study Group every week.  Eve, an immigration attorney, volunteers her time to us once a month to answer questions about the N-400 application and the entire citizenship process.  We are so fortunate to have two dedicated volunteers who offer their valuable support to naturalization candidates here in Berwyn at no charge.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

How I became the Berwyn Public Library's Volunteer Coordinator

Sometime in 2007, I decided to ask if there were volunteer opportunities for adults at my public library.  This is the absolute true story of how I became a volunteer coordinator.

I had just moved to Berwyn and after a year of fixing up an older Georgian style home, I finally wanted to get out and meet people.  I also wanted to make better use of all the time I had spent at the library reading about every little thing that piqued my curiosity--something I didn't have time for in college.  Some days I would spend the better part of the day at the library.  So there had to be something productive I could do to help, right?  After all, I had just completed a bachelor's degree in English and thought that could be worth something.

The Circulation desk seemed to be a good place to start, so I asked if there were any volunteer opportunities available.  Surprisingly, this took a great amount of courage and resolve because I had no idea what the answer would be.  I asked in person because I couldn't find any printed information displayed anywhere.  From that desk I was referred to the Youth Services desk, and was informed that there were no opportunities for adults to volunteer.  Brick wall.  Bummer.

That did not sit well with me.  How could a library as large as this one not have a formal volunteer program?  The only thing I could think of to do at that point was to find a library that did have a structured program.  Upon a quick internet search, I found the Brookfield Public Library.  They had a volunteer application right on their website that I could download, scan, and email to the volunteer coordinator, who was the head of the Reference department.  Before submitting my application, I hopped on my bike and pedaled my way there to "check out" the place.

After taking a quick tour and enjoying the friendly hellos from staff, I determined this would be a fantastic place to volunteer.  I submitted my application and had an interview with the head of Reference.  She referred me to the Circulation department for service.  As long as I was game for it, I could help out once a week to process interlibrary loans.  Perfect!

To make a long story a little shorter, I volunteered with the Brookfield Public Library for about 5 months before I landed my first library job at the Lyons Public Library.  Not being able to volunteer at my home library still bothered me a little, but I filed that in the back of my mind for another time.

My second volunteer gig was at Project CARE, an adult volunteer literacy agency at our local community college.  While helping an adult English language learner with intermediate reading skills, I found a series of short easy reader mysteries that I thought would be fun to read with an entire group of adult learners. 

In 2008, I decided to make my own volunteer opportunity doing that at my own library.  After pitching my idea to the program coordinator at Project CARE, she agreed to refer students to a reading group for English as a Second Language (ESL) if I could get approval from the Berwyn Library to hold it there.  She suggested I call the Outreach Services department, of which I had no previous knowledge.  From there, I was referred to the Reference department.  I met with the head of Reference and pitched my idea.  She was willing to write a grant to purchase the easy reader books we needed, at a cost of about $500.  Five adult learners attended my first ESL book discussion group on October 18, 2008.

Flash forward to the spring of 2009--I saw a job posting for an Outreach Services Library Assistant I on the doors of the Berwyn Library.  Throughout this time I had been working at other libraries, but I still used my home library to pick up and drop off books so I could get to know people.  When I saw the posting, I asked a staff member how I could apply.  They made a copy of the posting for me and directed me to apply at City Hall.  Unfortunately, an internal candidate was selected for it, much to my dismay.

By November of the same year, the job was posted again.  The head of Outreach Services had become the director, an internal candidate became the head of the department, and another person had moved to different department.  This time, I got the job!  Patience and persistence paid off.

At my interview, I learned that I would be assisting with pre-school storytimes, attending events and festivals, and bringing adult ESL services to the library.  I would also have the chance to write grants if I were interested.  While I was a little over-qualified for the position, I took it anyway.  I really wanted the chance to do something well.  I started out part-time, wrote 2 grants at almost $10,000, received a promotion, a pay raise, and full time hours in 2011.  Best of all, I was handed the responsibility of adult volunteer coordination as a new duty.  Score!

So that's the long story of how I came to be the Volunteer and Community Service Coordinator at the Berwyn Public Library--my home library.  Now, when adults are seeking the opportunity to volunteer at the library, we have paper applications at every service desk.  We also have applications on our website. 

In 2011, 67 adults and teens volunteered 923.5 hours.  In 2012, 57 adults and teens volunteered 1,251 hours.  From 2011 to 2012, we increased volunteerism by 35% and volunteers doubled their average amount of hours.  Two things attributed to this kind of growth--the responsiveness of a volunteer coordinator who really wants to see people find a place in their own community to serve, and the development of more meaningful ongoing volunteer roles.

Through sheer fortitude, the Library now offers Berwyn residents opportunities to volunteer that were not previously available.  I love my job as volunteer coordinator and I hope it shows every single day.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

"Berwyn citizenship program opens doors for locals" - Berwyn Life

Saturday, October 13, 2012

"Berwyn Public Library hosts ongoing citizenship prep course" - Berwyn Life

A forthcoming article in the Berwyn Life newspaper showcases the success of 4 new citizens and Berwyn volunteers who helped them study for the test and practice for the interview.  Click here to see pictures!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

"Literacy Volunteers in Oak Park help people make connections" - Wednesday Journal

Oak Park, IL--On a recent Wednesday evening, Adele Cannell was speaking English to six adults who don't speak it very well. Find out how we "make connections" at Literacy Volunteers in Oak Park, IL through this Community of Caring article from the Wednesday Journal of Oak Park and River Forest.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Multilingual Verb Conjugator

Save yourself some time by using this handy website!  At you can enter any verb in English, Spanish, Portuguese, German or French and the engine will "compute" the verb in all tenses.  It probably should be said that it is only an engine--in the sense that it does not tell you how to use the verbs with examples.  That isn't so bad though.  It would be easy to choose a new verb for each day and tailor a lesson to the level of your audience.  The lesson could be pretty short, maybe as a warm up activity while students are arriving that could last 5-10 minutes.  You can print the search engine results in a very tidy handout that really could work for any level.  Enjoy!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

I love what I do!

One of my youngest students at LT, where I teach part-time, also goes to classes at College of DuPage.  He told me today that he was dissatisfied with one of the lectures there.  The reason was because this teacher failed to elaborate on Latin root words when explaining the vocabulary of academic studies, e.g. geo-logy, geo-metry, geo-graphy.  That was a lost opportunity to expound on Greek and Latin roots, prefixes, and suffixes!  The primary reason I love being a teacher and working at a library is that I get to expound on things every day; it is a great joy.  For example, when someone at the library asks me, "What is the GED study group like?" I get excited and love to explain our relaxed learning approach.  It really clicked again for me this afternoon.  I love what I do!

Monday, January 23, 2012

New American Horizons ESL Teacher Training Videos

A new informational video is now available introducing the video training series, "Teaching ESL to Adults: Classroom Approaches in Action," produced as a service to the field by the New American Horizons Foundation.  Get some great training without attending a workshop!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Readability Calculator for Easy Reading

Since last summer I have been using a Readability Test from Joe's Web Tools to figure out reading levels for the easy reader section of the Literacy Collection.  The processing department at the Library purchased reading level labels (1-12) from Gaylord.  Based on the Flesch-Kincaid grade level system, I have been appyling labels to the front of our books so that we have one unified system from which to rank readability.  While there are many readability factors and systems, I have found Joe's calculator to be in line with my experience with easy reading materials and as an ESL tutor and teacher.  Check it out!