Friday, December 20, 2013

New GED grad, Citizen! | Berwyn Public Library

Good morning! Not only do we have another new citizen in Berwyn, Shahnaz from Iran, we also have our first official GED graduate, Jim V.! We have been offering the GED study group since 2011, but this is the first time someone has come back to tell us they passed. It might have something to do with the fact that Jim completed more than 40 hours of tutoring--in that time we built a bond with him and we set the expectation for him to come back and share his success with us. Up to that point, we weren't really able to do this because attendees hadn't completed enough hours of instruction for us to build a bond with them.

Here's the note we shared with our library community, which was then shared with our mayor and the library's city liaison:


Season’s Greetings everyone,

BPL’s volunteer tutors and I would like to announce that we have one more new citizen in Berwyn, Shahnaz P., from Iran.

We could not have continued to offer this opportunity without the dedication of our volunteer, Susan Brownell. Since June 2012 she has volunteered a total of 87 hours in the Citizenship group. Her background as a retired civics teacher and her enthusiasm for civic engagement has added a rich dimension to our group sessions.

We also have a new GED graduate, Jim V., from Oak Park.

Jim had passed every subject except math when he came to us. He also needed to boost his overall score in the GED battery by 70 points. After 46 hours of tutoring, Jim was able to increase his math score by 40 points, his reading score by 20 points, and his social studies score by 70 points, for a total increase of 130 points. In order to accumulate the hours of instruction he needed before the end of the year, Jim took advantage of the fact that we offer at least 5 study groups each week he could tap into. If not for the relaxed and informal adult literacy programming we offer, Jim would not have been able to find the kind of help he needed to pass the GED.

Many thanks to volunteer Judy Pavel for her continued tutoring at the Math and GED groups. Her flexibility and consistency has been elemental, including her ability to deftly handle the more complicated aspects of algebra and probability. Since March 2013, Judy has volunteered a total of 63.5 hours.

We hope to see more Berwyn residents take advantage of the GED group—as you can imagine there is a lot of interest here—but a majority of those interested find out they need remedial help in order to study actual GED content at the level presented in most study books. This takes time, and we encourage them to make the commitment to themselves to become lifelong learners to achieve this goal.

Financial support from the Friends of the Berwyn Library, the American Dream Starts @ your library initiative, the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, the ProLiteracy National Book Fund, and matching funds from the Veverka Bequest Fund, have all been elemental in providing us with learning materials and technology that enhances our small group instruction.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Monday, October 28, 2013

Our American Dream Starts at the Berwyn Public Library

I recently sat down with ALA's John Amundsen to talk about what a difference our $10,000 American Dream grant has made with technology in our adult literacy programs, but also how repeat funding from Dollar General has grown our ability to serve anyone who needs adult literacy help.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Greetings from the ILA Annual Conference in Chicago

Greetings from the Illinois Library Association 2013 Annual Conference in Chicago! We had a great poster session this morning and shared the stories about the American Dream libraries in the Land of Lincoln. Here's a photo of Michelle, Zina, and John from ALA OLOS and me.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

USCIS Mock Interview Presentation | Berwyn Public Library

We're excited to have USCIS coming to do a Mock Naturalization Interview here at our library on Tue. October 22, 2013.  Two USCIS Outreach representatives (playing the roles of adjudicator and applicant) will perform an interview that passes, and one that fails.  They'll also answer any questions that our students in our Citizenship Study Group ask them.

Recently USCIS reached out to our library director, who referred them to me.  They are looking to do outreach of their own, so if you would like USCIS to come to you, find your local USCIS office and give them a call.  They offered to do community informational presentations, as well as visit our study group.  When they were here, they brought us a free updated toolkit with flashcards in English and Spanish.  They give one free toolkit to every library who requests one, but extra copies may be purchased.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Break the Cycle Infographic

It's amazing how poverty, crime, and low levels of literacy are linked.  Take for instance this infographic from Reading Horizons.  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.

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, May 22, 2013

SMART Board Arrived Today! | Berwyn Public Library

Couldn't wait to share that our SMART board arrived today.  A certified installer will put it together sometime next week.  Can't wait to start using it!

Here's what we'll be using it for:

ESL Instruction: Reading online passages and circling words we want to learn, completing worksheets as a group, and watching 20/20 clips for vocabulary development.  The biggest benefit will be that I can present a worksheet to the group on-screen vs. having to make so many paper copies.  We have killed too many trees here at BPL!  Having the SMART board is much better than having a projector because I can display my electronic copy of a document from my network drive and I don't have to make transparencies.

Math Instruction: Watching math videos, working through problems as a group, and creating math games with the SMART Notebook software.

Citizenship Instruction: "This is Jeopardy!"  I have a retired civics teacher that will be developing materials for us; Susan is a fantastic volunteer.

GED Instruction: Working through graphs and charts, essay writing modeling and instruction.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Our 2nd American Dream Grant | Berwyn Public Library

We have just received our second American Dream grant for $10,000 from the American Library Association and Dollar General Literacy Foundation.  This time around we will be adding some seriously cool technology to our adult learning programs like a SMART board, iPad Minis, and subscriptions to reading and ESL software.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

How I became the Berwyn 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?