Haw King Cheng and Theresa Sheehan at Seward Park Library.For more than two decades, Haw King Cheng has wanted to learn English so that he could get ahead in his new country.
Finally, thanks to The New York Public Library, he is getting that chance.
Cheng, who moved to New York City from Hong Kong in 1985, is now learning to read, write, and speak English at the Seward Park Library on the Lower East Side with the help of NYPL literacy specialist Theresa Sheehan.
“The Library is helping me learn English so I can move up,” says Cheng, a father of three who works in a tour-boat restaurant cleaning tables but dreams of becoming a waiter.
“Simple English is OK for a busboy,” he says. “But a waiter needs to speak fluently.”
Free English classes for immigrants and other essential Library services could be dramatically cut back due to a proposed $43 million reduction in funding for The New York Public Library. Please do your part to protect your branch and the countless patrons who rely on it. Sign a letter of support
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For Cheng’s first 20 years in New York City, he worked in restaurants in Chinatown six or seven days a week to provide for his family, which left little time or opportunity to learn English. But now that he has two days off a week at his current job, he arranges his schedule so he can spend them honing his skills at Seward Park’s Adult Learning Center.
“Before, I could not read the simple letters that come to my house from the government or advertisements from companies,” Cheng recently wrote for a class project. “Now I can read the letters. Some vocabulary I check in the dictionary, but now I can understand the whole letter.”
Sheehan, who oversees the Center where Cheng attends classes, says the Library’s free English instruction gives immigrant students the tools and confidence they need to find their way in their new home.
“All of our students say these programs are essential to living here,” says Sheehan, who has worked with the program for more than 20 years. “It helps them navigate every part of their lives, from speaking to a neighbor or asking a question at a child’s school to applying for a job or reading important documents.”
Please join Haw King Cheng and other Library users who depend on NYPL’s services in speaking out against the proposed cuts. If they are not reversed, up to 12 neighborhood libraries could close and the remaining branches could be open just four days a week. It takes just a few clicks to send a letter to your elected officials urging them to restore funding.