Literacy network selected for new ESL program

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By Reece Murphy

Lancaster County has been chosen to participate in a pilot English as a Second Language (ESL) initiative sponsored by a grant from the Dollar General Foundation.
The initiative is spearheaded by Literacy Forward, an organization from central Texas, which aims to train local volunteer ESL instructors using the organization’s methods.
Lancaster County is one of only three counties in the country to participate in the initiative, facilitated locally by Carolinas Literacy Network, CLN Marketing Consultant Beth Birt said.
“They (Literacy Forward) came here and did a two day intensive training session with people in our community,” Birt said. “They’re now master trainers and they’ll go out and train instructors in the churches and schools of Lancaster County.”
According to its website, Literacy Forward’s method is the nation’s “first comprehensive, research-based training system for adult ESL and ABE (Adult Basic Education) instruction.”
Instead of teaching exclusively from a book, Literacy Forwards instructional approach is adaptable to the goals of each ESL learner, the website says.
Among the key features of the program, is the inclusion of “authentic materials, including flyers, announcements, household bills and grocery inserts.”
“Authentic materials engage learners by tying instruction to learners’ real-world lives,” the website says. “By showing teachers how to maximize the use of materials that learners encounter in their everyday lives, instruction is kept fresh, engaging, and most importantly, relevant.”
Birt said the community ESL instructors will include teachers and students at local schools as well as volunteers at participating churches and other local organizations, and will create “a network of ESL training all over the county.”
She said the program is intended to help more than just potential Latino ESL students, since Lancaster County also has a sizable middle eastern and other non-native English speaking populations, particularly in the Panhandle.
“I think there’s a much greater need for this program than people realize, and it’s really going to facilitate community involvement,” Birt said.
“This is a great way to reach out to those (foreign language) communities.”
For details on the program and/or volunteer opportunities, contact Kathy Wilds at kathy@carolinaliteracy.org or (803) 285-8805.

Contact reporter Reece Murphy at (803) 283-1151