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Half Moon Bay library offers literacy help to non-English speakers on the coast
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Hoping to improve literacy and English language skills, the Half Moon Bay Library is offering a number of resources to the coastal community.

The library’s adult literacy program, which currently serves more than 40 active learners in Half Moon Bay as well as twenty in East Palo Alto, is at the heart of this effort.

The program offers individual guidance in reading, writing, and speaking in English.

“A typical goal is to be able to read a book or a newspaper in English,” said the program’s coordinator Joanna Arteaga La Spina.

Volunteer tutors make up the backbone of the program. Once they have attended an orientation and training session, they’re matched with an English learner. From there, the pairs begin meeting for two to four hours each week.  

Sessions are entirely focused on the needs of the learner, which, in the past, have ranged from general equivalency diplomas to citizenship tests to simply making easier conversation. Tutors are present to provide learners with constructive feedback on writing, reading, and speaking. Pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary are all given particular focus.

“The most important thing is that people claim their education and that they can do so with our support,” La Spina said.

The popularity of the adult literacy program is evident by the continuous waiting list for new participants.

“We can always use new tutors,” said Annie Malley, Half Moon Bay Library’s branch manager.(For those interested, there’s an orientation and training for volunteer tutors planned for Feb. 4 at the Ted Adcock Center in Half Moon Bay.)

“I look forward to being able to participate in a similar program, seeing how much both the tutors and the learners get out of the program,” Malley said.

The effort to help those with Spanish-speaking backgrounds improve English fluency extends beyond adults. Twice a week, on Monday and Wednesday evenings, local elementary schoolers meet with library staff and volunteers. Each session, the children spend an hour reading, playing language games, and putting together arts and crafts projects.

Additionally, for English learners as well as Spanish ones, the Half Moon Bay Library hosts a bilingual conversation club every Sunday beginning at 2 p.m. The club, though informal, offers community members an opportunity to gather and practice their conversation skills.  

The library also offers online resources all accessible with nothing more than a library card. On their website, smcl.org, is Mango Languages, an app which offers lessons in conversational English, from salutations to how to go shopping. A recording device, which allows for direct comparison of a learner’s pronunciation to that of the app is built in.

And the library is looking to expand their efforts in the future. A new facility, scheduled to finish construction in the summer, will feature a room dedicated solely to giving English learners and tutors their own space.

Story by: Max Paik