This essay first appeared in the summer edition of the Dominican Literacy Center newsletter, Word & Hope. We republish it here with the permission of the Dominican Literacy Center because of its unique perspective on the challenges that face English language learners in the United States. To learn more about the Springfield Dominican mission of literacy and citizenship education at the Dominican Literacy Center visit https://dominicanliteracycenter.org/
“Why don’t they just learn English?” You may have heard this question in the grocery check-out lane and it’s usually said in an exasperated tone—the line is being held up because the person ahead of them couldn’t understand English. We hear the same question here at the Dominican Literacy Center in Aurora, but the question is voiced by the women who come to register for ESL tutoring. The question is similar, but slightly different, and it sounds like this, “Why can’t I just learn English?”
Answering the Questions Together
The volunteer tutors at our center take both of these questions seriously, and they have decided to do something about it. After a 15-hour training, these volunteers have come forward to work individually, every week, with one of the immigrant women who has come to the center to learn to read, write and speak English. Often these women are the last in the family to not speak English and they are feeling isolated, unheard, and unable to be a good mother and co-worker. They want to participate in their new life in this country, and they know that English is the path to success. By working together each week, every tutor and student pair is answering the two questions above. The students can learn English and they will learn English, but only with the help of a good program, a good tutor, and a good place to learn.
Be Part of the Solution
One way to be part of the solution to the problem of English illiteracy is to volunteer in an adult literacy program. If that is not possible for you, please help to sustain and support these women in their quest for English by donating to our annual “Sponsor-a-Student” program. The cost of books for one year for a student and her tutor is $125.00. Every student pays $25.00 for her books. You can match one woman’s book fee by donating $100.00 to the Sponsor-a -Student Fund, and provide educational books and resources for a year. All 200+ of our women need someone to match their book fee with a donation of $100.00. The more you donate, the more women will learn English. And that will begin to answer both of those questions that we hear and grapple with every day.
Last year our wonderful “Sponsor-a-Student” donors helped us to buy a whole new curriculum: books, teachers’ materials and laptops. This year, we hope to expand and spread our program so that, post-Covid, more women can learn English.
Please use this secure online donation platform to become a supporter of the “Sponsor-a-Student Fund.” Your gift will have an immediate impact on the life of an immigrant woman, and a far-reaching impact on the literacy level of our communities. Thank you for reaching out and helping our adult students learn English—your act of generosity will reverberate in the lives of these women, and in their families and communities.