$5,000 grant will help teach English as a second language

By Brandi Hodges - bio | email

NEWPORT, AR (KAIT) - Many of us see our libraries as places to check out books, use the computer, or do research but our libraries are also places to learn new information.

A new grant of $5,000 funded by the Dollar General Literacy Foundation is targeted to help libraries across the country offer programs to help teach English as a second language.

"It's an ever changing population here in Northeast Arkansas," said Jackson County Library Board President Susan Smith.

"The Hispanic population in Arkansas is growing at such a tremendous rate.  Here in Jackson County we have native speakers of Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean," said Jackson County Library Director Darby Wallace.

The Jackson County Library is one of three in the state of Arkansas and 70 in the country to get this grant.  They were selected by the American Library Association to get the "American Dream Starts at Your Library" grant.

"This money will help us provide so many services for so many people," said Wallace.

Like most businesses, the Jackson County Library has a limited budget and they are always looking for grants to help provide for the community.

"Any funds we can use from outside resources is wonderful and give it back to the community and this is a way we can," said Smith.

"We will offer some software programs for Spanish speakers to learn English and for English speakers to learn Spanish," said Wallace.

There will be other languages available through the software and Wallace said they hope to offer those on the library's website so people can use them from home.

The library already has several books in their collection written in Spanish.  Over the next year they plan to get several books, magazines, and newspapers in various languages to build on what they have to offer.

"Libraries are changing and we have to meet the needs of the community as it changes," said Smith.

"If we can facilitate communication and ease understanding then it's been a great way to use the library's resources," said Wallace.

The library will have one year to spend the money provided in the grant.  In addition to providing computer software at the library and on-line they will also be purchasing educational materials, offering workshops free for the public, and performances over the next year.

"Nobody says English has to be the only way.  It would be very helpful to keep fluency going in both languages," said Wallace.

Wallace said they do have folks come inside the library from time to time who do not speak English and it can be very difficult for both the library staff and the individual needing help.  She said learning a new language can be very difficult.

"For some people it happens rather easily and rather quickly, for other people it can take years and years and be a very frustrating and frightening process," said Wallace.

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