Through community partnerships, Wauconda (Ill.) Area Public Library developed Spanish- and English-language brochures, as well as a video that was posted to YouTube. Housed in a brand-new doublewide trailer, the tiny Pinewoods branch of the Athens (Ga.) Regional Library System developed a volunteer ESL training manual that’s on the library’s website. These are among the dozens of projects undertaken with grants from “The American Dream Starts @ your library,” a literacy initiative funded by the Dollar General Literacy Foundation.
The 2005 National Assessment of Adult Literacy found that 11 million adults in the United States—about one in 20—have such limited English skills that they can’t read a newspaper, understand written directions for medication, or help their children with schoolwork. Recent immigrants account for most of this group. To meet this need, Dollar General Literacy Foundation partnered with the American Library Association to start the “American Dream” initiative, which is administered by ALA’s Office for Literacy and Outreach Services.
The 70 public libraries in 21 states that received $5,000 grants earlier this year as part of the initiative include libraries in large cities and rural towns throughout Dollar General’s market area. The libraries are to use the grant funds to build innovative literacy services for adult English-language learners living and working in their communities. The libraries will expand their print and digital literacy collections, offer classes and conversation clubs, develop mobile tech labs, and reach out to immigrant organizations.
Wauconda and Pinewoods, as well as High Plains (Colo.) Library District, Hooper (Nebr.) Public Library, and Pima County (Ariz.) Public Library, were re-funded this year after successfully completing their projects in round one of the “American Dream” grants, which were awarded in 2008.
“The Dollar General Literacy Foundation is proud to join with ALA to provide grants to libraries that are committed to enhancing their literacy services for those learning to speak English,” says Rick Dreiling, Dollar General’s chairman and CEO. “These specialized programs and services will help so many achieve their own dreams of success in America.
“For more than a century, public libraries have been a cornerstone of the American dream, providing equal access to information of all kinds,” Dreiling observes, “and libraries are among the first American institutions immigrants turn to for help in learning how to read, write, and speak English. Libraries are uniquely positioned to help immigrants adapt to a new culture and connect with their new communities.”
“The American Library Association deeply appreciates Dollar General’s generous support and applauds their vision for a more literate America,” says Camila Alire, 2009–10 ALA president. “‘The American Dream Starts @ your library” serves 70 communities, reaches thousands of adults, and helps libraries change lives across generations.”