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Pleasurable Reading Packets for Adult Immigrants Learning English

Providence Public Library
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Innovation Leader: Karisa Tashjian, Literacy Program Coordinator, ktashjian@provlib.org

Problem Statement

Adult immigrants with limited English proficiency, and especially those who have newly arrived to the United States, often have busy and challenging daily lives. Due to their lack of English language skills, these immigrants face limited employment opportunities and may work several jobs, often with erratic schedules. Yet, these same adult immigrants fill our library’s English as a Second Language (ESL) classes to capacity and beyond because they understand what gaining a higher proficiency in English can bring to themselves and their families. However, research has shown that it takes an average of 150 hours to advance one reading level in English - time which these immigrants have in limited supply. They also report having limited opportunities to practice their English skills outside of the classroom and some have limited educational experiences and are not in the habit of reading for pleasure.

Innovation

Chris Bourret, Lead ESL Teacher with the Rhode Island Family Literacy Initiative (RIFLI) which is a literacy collaborative comprised of five public library systems in Rhode Island coordinated through the Providence Public Library, developed take home reading packets in the spring of 2008. This new approach addresses the problems noted above, takes advantage of library resources and encourages library usage and incorporates the research of Krashen (2006) who found that pleasurable reading can help students develop richer vocabularies and understand complex oral and written language and move learners to higher stages of literacy. The impetus also came from RIFLI participation in an action research project with the New England Literacy Resource Center.

Students choose, explore and react to the material in the packets outside of class. Each packet consists of: a copy of Easy English News and accompanying two-page quiz, a reading from ESL-Library.com or a book from a pleasurable reading series, for example True Stories in the News, What a Life, or What a World, all from Longman Publishing, at least one graphic organizer on which students summarize and reflect on the reading and a time log. Students take the packets home, choose what parts they’d like to do, and hand in their work whenever they are ready. When a packet is returned, teachers record the number of hours students spent on the packet, keep a list of stories the student has read, correct the newspaper quiz and any other activities, and comment on the graphic organizer. A new packet is then created with new readings geared for each student’s reading level.

Progress

The packets are very popular with students and a “packet culture” has been fostered in all RIFLI classes which has led to a dramatic increase in the amount of time students spend reading English on their own. This is one of the most unanticipated and meaningful results of the project – adult immigrant ESL students are checking out library materials at higher rates than ever before. Packet use has also led to a noticeable increase in student self-efficacy, increased hours of class attendance, increased reading levels as measured by a standardized instrument and increased goal attainment rates. Comparing data from classes that used packets in fall 2008 to data from fall 2007, attendance hours went up 16% in one class, completion rates increased by 85% in another class, and both classes increased their goal attainment rates by over 110%.