Library helps ESL families learn English

Families reading bilingual children's stories

By Isaiah Alonzo
Pulse Staff Reporter

Palo Alto College Library’s Together We Read program gives English language learners and their families the opportunity to improve their literacy skills.

Beginning Sept. 15 and running through Oct. 20, the program aims to improve literacy skills through six 90-minute sessions. Each session covers a variety of exercises, including the reading of a bilingual children’s book, family discussion and literacy-building activities.

The program is hosted in the Ozuna Children’s Library by Library Assistant Melissa Moya, who puts together the activities used during each session in order to help the participants with a particular skill. Some of these activities include writing words in shaving cream or finding matching letters in a box of sand.

When putting together the activities, Moya believes that it is important to supplement reading with kinesthetic or hands-on learning because it is important for the development of young children’s brains.

“It also helps to build muscles within their hands and later that will help them to be able to write better with pencils or with any writing materials,” said Moya.

Although the program is primarily aimed to help children, the parents attending the session are also making the best of this opportunity.

Evailia Torres is an English as a Second Language (ESL) student participating in the Together We Read Program with her 6-year-old son, Angel. Together they hope to gain a greater understanding of reading and writing in the English language.

“I enjoy the program mainly because the books we read are in English and in Spanish,” said Torres. “My son pays attention, and it gives him the chance to follow the story, while also giving him an opportunity to recognize some of the words, which will help him when he moves on in a primarily English school.”

The program enables the child and their parent to learn at the same time, something not all aspiring English learners may have had.

Lydia Hannawi, the college’s Community Programs manager, works with Palo Alto’s GED and ESL students, and she understands why the Together We Read program will make such a big difference in people’s lives.

At a young age, Hannawi and her family came to the United States from Mexico. She started school, but she had difficulty learning the language. Lucky for her, she had a teacher who was willing to take the time and help her learn English.

“It’s a win-win situation all around because the ESL student is learning English, so they’re reinforcing their learning,” said Hannawi.  “And then the child is also learning, and so both child and parent are learning at the same time. I didn’t have that opportunity…going home and reviewing homework with my parents, or practicing my reading with my parents.”

The last Together We Read session will take place on Oct. 20, 2016, at 6:30 p.m. Those interested in attending the program should call the Children’s Library at (210) 486-3570.

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