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Adult Learning Centers

Exploring adult literacy at the library. The voices and experiences of students and volunteer tutors at the Adult Learning Centers.

Photo: Hilary Schenker

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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Learning to Read and Write at the Library: Pedro's Story

Pedro, a native New Yorker, faced up to a number of personal challenges before he enrolled in the Tompkins Square Center for Reading and Writing (CRW), the library's adult literacy program last year. I asked Pedro about his journey this past year as a student.

How did you find out that the library has a program for adults to work on basic reading and writing skills?

Someone mentioned to me that the library had a program. I passed by that nice building on Sixth Avenue—

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International Literacy Day 2010

A few weeks ago, I had dinner with my friend Patrick, who is also a librarian. We were catching up about our summer activities and plans for the school year, and in the course of the conversation, he asked about my mother. She's a teacher in Arizona, where they start back to school in mid-August (so much earlier than the NYC kids, who are just getting back today!) so I shared some funny stories she had been telling me about her first few weeks of first grade. If you're at all familiar with the comically literal tendencies of

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Thank You, Aguilar Volunteer Tutors

The NYPL's Centers for Reading and Writing have served thousands of New Yorkers over the years - making some adults genuinely literate for the first time in their lives and improving literacy skills for many others.

In every case, a volunteer did the "heavy lifting."

Every pair—approximately half of the teaching is one-on-one—and every group has its own dynamic and its own priceless stories, but this one is very fresh in my mind.

At the Aguilar Center for 

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Writing through the Lens: Exhibition and Reception for Students

Harlem and Aguilar CRW students gathered at the Zora Neale Hurston Room of the Harlem Library on Friday May 28 for their debut as budding photographers of the CRWs of the NYPL. Students browsed the exhibit before guests arrived and were thrilled to see their photos mounted on the exhibit wall of the immense community room.

During the program, Site Advisors, Steven Mahoney (Harlem) and Elaine Sohn (Aguilar) explained the project 

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Writing Through the Lens: Special Objects

Students in the CRW Photography Workshop brought in objects which held personal significance for them. We spent some time writing about these objects and then went into the garden to take some portraits of each other posed with our special objects.

Marwlee wrote about African clothes, which she loves because you can wear them for church, school, job interviews and parties.

Elton brought in a silver dollar which belonged to his little sister. He wrote that his mother gave it to him forty-one years 

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Literacy in the Arts: Portraits & Dreams

Students in the CRW Photography workshop browsed the Groana Melendez Family Work Series of portraits photographed in the Dominican Republic and in New York.  The exhibit is on the Mezannine of the Aguilar Library and can be seen there until September 7, 2010.  It is presented by En Foco's Touring Gallery which features presentations by emerging photographers in community spaces throughout New York City. En Foco's mission is to 

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Literacy in the Arts: the Museum

A class field trip to El Museo del Barrio inspires the students' creativity.

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CRW Students Share Their Stories for Immigrant Heritage Week

In honor of Immigrant Heritage Week, students at 3 of the Centers for Reading and Writing spent the day at Mid-Manhattan Library recording their personal stories with Storycorps, a national oral history project, started 8 years ago. 

Jahara Drammeh (Aguilar CRW student), John, the Storycorps facilitator, and Steven Kopstein, (Aguilar Tutor) chatting before the interview 

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Literacy in the Arts: Dreams

This past Friday, the group shared their dreams in front of the class. They shared dreams that they had during sleep, as well as those that they hope to achieve.

One student shared her dream of moving into an apartment in Croton Falls, a small city north of Manhattan reachable by train. Sol then explored with the class how one might represent her dream with a photograph without photographing a person. Some students answered, "a train," another said, "an apartment."

Sol offered another alternative—the metaphor. She explained what a 

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Literacy in the Arts: Portraits

What a portrait can tell us? by Judith Aisen

Billy said that portraits “portray” things about people and Keith said they give you a little history.  We shared written “portraits” of friends and relatives but some of our liveliest conversations were inspired by a film about the photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson who spoke about working quietly, like a cat, to capture people in their own habitat.  We talked about HC-B trying to, “put the camera between the skin of a person 

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Literacy in the Arts: Family Albums

We brought in photos from our family album.  We observed the different attributes of a photo, such as setting, background, light and subject.  We wrote about the family photo and shared it with the class.  Photography lets us remember the good moments and brings us wonderful memories!

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Literacy in the Arts: Photography Workshop at Centers for Reading and Writing

"Smile! I want to take your portrait...It's too dark over here.... Is this a stolen portrait?" were some of the comments heard on Friday, March 26 at the Aguilar Branch when adult students from Aguilar and Harlem Centers for Reading and Writing rose from their seats to show off what they had just learned about portraits: consider the mood, the setting, the lighting, the point of view and the subject!

For the next 10 weeks, these lucky 20 students will be part of the 

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