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Centers for Reading and Writing

Exploring adult literacy at the library. The voices and experiences of students and volunteer tutors at the Centers for Reading and Writing.

Photo: Hilary Schenker

Diary of a Volunteer at the Aguilar Adult Learning Center

A guest post by Leslie Gilstrap.

Some people are surprised to learn that adults don't know how to read. "How can this be?", they ask. How is it possible that someone can hold down a job or take care of a family if he or she doesn't know how to read? How does he travel on subways and buses, shop for groceries or visit a doctor's office without knowing what all of the signs, advertisements and paper forms mean?

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Back to Basics: Letter Writing at the Aguilar Adult Learning Center

At the Aguilar Adult Learning Center, ESOL students are getting to know other students from around the city! They are pen pals with students in one ESOL evening class at CUNY's City Tech Adult Learning Center in Brooklyn.

Our ESOL students introduced themselves to Jay Klokker's students at City Tech in short handwritten letters and within a few days, City Tech's students had their replies out in the mail back to Aguilar!

More than 20 pairs of pen 

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11 Free Websites to Practice English at Home

RTlibrary on FlickrAt the New York Public Library's Adult Learning Centers, where adults work on basic English and literacy skills, we're often asked for recommendations of websites for adults to practice English at home. Below you'll find eleven sites, some with a focus on listening, some on vocabulary, others on grammar, and some with a range of activities. Happy learning!

Easy World of English

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Poetry Fest at the Aguilar Center for Reading and Writing

If you think of poems as flowers, then the Aguilar Poetry Fest was an exercise in charming cross-pollination. Sharing was the thing. Students were seated in groups of about 6, where they read their chosen poems to each other and then intermixed with other tables to multiply the fun. Poets included Langston Hughes,

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The Library is Helping Him Move Up

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 ... Read More ›

The Library Is His Toolbox

Geniene Monterrosa and Tommy Foday at St. George Library Center.

After everything he has been through, Tommy Foday wasn’t going to let a snowstorm keep him from finally learning to read and write.

Nearly 10 years ago, Foday, a torture survivor and refugee from Sierra Leone, was set to have his first adult literacy class at the St. George Library Center on Staten Island on the day of a major snowfall. Though the Library was nearly empty and all the other students stayed home, Foday still made it in — and has remained a dedicated student ever 

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Poetry Writing With Adult New Readers, Strategy 1: The List Poem

You have not crossed the bridges I have crossed. You have not listened to the music I have listened to. You have not been in the top of the World Trade Center the way I have been there. You have not seen the waves I have seen. You have not fallen from horses the way I have fallen. You have not felt the guns on your neck the way I have felt them. You have not been in the sea with a big storm in a little boat the way I have been.

—Excerpt from "Don’t Give Me Advice," by Luis Marin, Tompkins Square CRW

This month is

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Read for Your Life: Resources for Teaching Health Literacy to Adults

A woman came into the Library's Center for Reading and Writing, where she was enrolled in a basic literacy class. Visibly shaken, she pulled a staff member aside and confided that she wasn’t sure if she would be able to continue in the class. She had felt some pain in her breast, and her doctor had recommended that she have a mammogram. Not having any idea what a mammogram was, she understood it to mean that she had cancer. The staff member showed her how to find information about

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From Masailand to Tompkins Square Library: A Journey in Literacy

Last year, Victoria joined a basic reading and writing class at Tompkins Square Library's Center for Reading and Writing. She agreed to speak with me about her experience so far and what brought her here.

Where are you from?

I grew up in Kenya, in the Masailand, in a village with 10 huts.

What other languages do you speak besides English?

I speak the Masai language and Swahili, and other tribal languages: Kikuyu, Luo, and Kamba. I came to America in 1986. I speak English every day, but 

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The Holiday Pen Pal Party

After three months of writing letters back and forth, Aguilar Library students and CUNY's City Tech students met one another at the holiday pen pal party at City Tech on Wednesday, December 14, 2011. Students from both sites were excited to meet each other and find out more about their new friend! Traveling from 110th Street on the East Side, Aguilar Library students and their  

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Pen Pals are Wonderful New Friends!

Students at Aguilar Library's Center for Reading and Writing are getting to know other students from around the city! They are pen pals with students in one ESOL evening class at CUNY's City Tech Adult Learning Center in Brooklyn.

Jay Klokker's students at City Tech introduced themselves to Aguilar Library's CRW students in short handwritten letters and within a week, Aguilar Library's CRW students had their replies out in the mail back to 

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The Volunteer Experience at The New York Public Library's Centers for Reading and Writing (CRW)

First — a phone call or an Internet visit to nypl.org. This starts the process for registering to be a volunteer tutor at the Centers for Reading and Writing (CRW) at The New York Public Library. The process continues with a scheduled visit to one of the eight CRW sites located in the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island. A Site Advisor or Literacy Assistant then conducts a crucial interview that helps 

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Digital Photography at Aguilar Library's Center for Reading and Writing!

Learning to write through photography is one of the goals of Sol Aramendi, a photographer/educator who is currently leading a nine week "Literacy through Photography" class at Aguilar Library's Center for Reading and Writing.

A New York based Argentinean educator and artist who strongly believes in art education as a tool to create a dialogue of understanding and social justice, Aramendi will be working with 15 adult learners who signed up for a series of Friday workshops.

Students will write about their dreams 

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Aguilar CRW Opens with a Bang!

The Fall Cycle started at Aguilar Library's Center for Reading and Writing (CRW) on September 12, 2011! Thirty new students and six new tutors joined the excitement and will spend the next 12 weeks working together — reading, writing, and challenging themselves along the way.  

New students spent eight hours in orientation learning the ropes: discussing their goals, learning what makes a good student, learning what makes a good tutor, and sharing their expectations 

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Learning Piano and Learning to Read: Reflections from a CRW Tutor

At the Center for Reading and Writing at Seward Park Library, volunteer tutors work with small groups of students improving basic English reading and writing skills. Tutors are encouraged to reflect on their own learning, and to think how they have felt while learning something new. Here is tutor Alexandra (Alex) Steedman’s reflection.

"You’re never too old to learn" the old adage says. Taking this to heart, I decided to finally pursue a long standing 

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Why We Celebrate: Learning Celebrations at the Centers for Reading and Writing

Learning Celebration at the Seward Park CRW

Twice a year, each of The New York Public Library's eight Centers for Reading and Writing hosts a Learning Celebration for adult literacy students and volunteer tutors. Students read their work aloud, family and friends join in the festivities, and everyone receives a copy of a new journal of student writing. After the reading program, there is a potluck meal and often music or other demonstrations, such as salsa, tai chi, or singing.

As one of the 

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Symphony Space’s All Write! Celebrates the Writing of Adult Literacy Students

Winning student writer takes the mic from host Isaiah ShefferOutside Symphony Space, on the Upper West Side, a line began stretching down the block. There was hand-shaking, back-patting, and fist-bumping as those in line welcomed new arrivals. The crowd, comprised of adult students and their tutors from basic literacy programs throughout the five boroughs, including The New York Public Library's Centers for Reading and Writing, gathered last week for Symphony Space’s annual event,

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Learning English for the Sake of Her Children

Lucy Liu and her two children. Photo: Beowulf SheehanLucy Liu, who emigrated from China to New York City nine years ago, is proud that her two young children speak perfect English.   Now she wants to learn too.

  In order to keep up with her kids, Liu is learning to read and write in English for the first time thanks to the free classes at an NYPL Center for Reading and Writing at Seward Park Library in Chinatown.   “I wanted to 

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The New York Public Library Saved His Life

Pedro Munoz. Photo: Beowulf SheehanPedro Munoz, a junior-high dropout and recovering addict, had never set foot in a Library until two years ago.

Now, Tompkins Square Library is his favorite spot in the city — the place that gave him the strength to turn his life around.

“The Library has saved my life. Without it, I would still be out there on the street,” says Munoz, who has been learning to read and write at free adult-literacy center at Tompkins Square 

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Aguilar Center for Reading and Writing Holiday Celebration

A group of Saturday Literacy students with their tutor, Cynthia (wearing a scarf) and Eric, the son of one of the students.Better than vanilla ice cream! That’s what one student said in her reading at the Aguilar Center for Reading and Writing Learning Celebration on Thursday, December 8th. The student read her story about things she was thankful for—and the Aguilar CRW was right up there, better than vanilla ice cream. Other students shared their emotions about being a single 

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