Literacy New Jersey helps adults become U.S. citizens


In 2016, almost 200 Literacy New Jersey students were granted U.S. citizenship, meaning they can register to vote and do so for the first time, and become more active members of their communities.

Chin Vivian Hsieh is a 53-year-old woman who immigrated to the U.S. six years ago from Taiwan, and among her most challenging experiences here was just walking into a shop and go to the checkout counter.

She was scared, and thought people were saying ‘What’ya doing’, while they actually were saying ‘How’ya doing’. It was, in fact, this small misunderstanding, just one simple word, that made that she didn’t venture out on most days.

Finally, Hsieh joined a Literacy Volunteers group on English conversation and started to work 1-on-1 with a tutor from Literacy New Jersey in Middlesex. It was only then that her life begun to change for the better. In 2015, Chin Vivian Hsieh became a U.S. citizen. She says she now wants to vote for the American presidency, and that she likes the American life, the possibilities, and the freedom.

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Reading with your children

Here are some ideas that help all of us appreciate and value how important reading is for children. You may also discover new ideas that interest you, personally.

Reading and Learning Magic

Children who love to read hold a special kind of magic – a gift that will enrich their lives forever. Like ensuring that your child eats healthy and has proper rest, you can also nourish your child’s imagination – that endless curiosity that causes your child’s mind to grow in a healthy way – by teaching your child to learn and love to read.

Your child has probably asked you many questions and will continue to ask you hundreds more. Your responses are one way that you teach your child about the world. However, you also know that your child has to learn from other sources as well. One of these sources is books, which contain an endless amount of knowledge and pleasure. So help your child discover the wonderful world of books and become an enthusiastic lifelong reader.

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Do You Write With Your Students?

The National Writing Project

A teacher is a critically important role model for students. It’s said that a parent is a child’s first, best teacher but parents entrust to us the sacred obligation to carry the flame of learning through the school years.

Teachers sometimes “dispense” information but one of the most important ways learning happens and takes hold is when the role model – teacher or parent – demonstrates the importance of the lesson or task by engaging in it themselves. Tying a shoe, keeping things in their place, reading – or writing.

Donald Graves used to talk about this in his teacher workshops. Showing rather than just telling your students that writing, revising and editing can be hard work – but worth it – is a powerful teaching tool. Getting down in the trenches with your students can be uncomfortable, but showing vulnerability to the kids can pay dividends.

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The Importance of Literacy

All people need some form of literacy in order to be engaged in the fight for social justice, whether the cause is education, immigration, women’s rights, economic justice or racial justice.

Literacy and earning, in general, are the foundation for every social justice effort we can and should engage in. Take a look at just a few of the numbers:

  1. Approximately 65% of 4th-graders continue to score below proficiency in reading.
  2. Approximately 33% of all children – and more than 50% of low-income and minority youth – fail to graduate high school on time.
  3. Only 33% of high school graduates have the skills needed to succeed in college and the workforce.
  4. Only 10% of minority students who enroll in college will graduate.
  5. Approximately 759 million adults – 16% of the world’s population – have only basic or below basic literacy levels.
  6. Approximately 66% of the world’s lowest literacy adults are women.

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Executing Great School Project Ideas

Books have been written about them and a number of different comedians talk about them as a part of their stand up routine. School projects. Many parents dread it when their child announces they need help and some creative school project ideas since that is usually the signal for days of roaming craft stores and surfing around online trying to come up with school project ideas that will impress the teacher.

School Project Ideas – Where to Get Help

Every child’s school project comes with the same instruction – that children should make all of the elements themselves. That might work for kids on say, a high school level, but if you know an elementary school child who has ever completed a big school project by themselves we’d love to hear about it because we certainly never have.

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How To Become A Literacy Volunteer

Before you can start working on things like syllables with any student, practically all literacy organizations will require you to attend an orientation & training program of some 10 to 20 hours.

Usually, the lessons and materials are provided for free, and the training takes generally place on evenings or weekend days.

These training programs are including subject areas such as goal setting, designing lesson plans, sensitivity training, dyslexia, and effective methods for teaching vocabulary, writing, preparing for the GED test via Math practice from, and even writing a short GED essay.

Well, as we know that the majority of  illiterate adults were trying to cover up their inability to write and/or read for many years, sensitivity training elements were implemented to help you help them with any form of shame,  negativity about school, or frustration, that may come up during one of your tutoring sessions.

The instruction on your lesson plans will provide you with good ideas about how to structure your tutoring sessions.You’ll learn which workbooks to use in relation to a student’s reading level or perhaps learning disability, and the best ways to keep your tutoring accurate and lively.

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You Should Not Mispronounce A Student’s Name

Are you aware that if you mispronounce a student’s name, you are negating the student’s identity? Mispronouncing a student’s name may well be leading to resentment and anxiety which may lead to less academic progress.

Pronouncing the name of a student correctly will help build a positive school culture and is only respectful to students and their families.

Over the last decades, we’ve seen a national increase regarding students’ overall graduation rates in the U.S., but the dropout rate for immigrant or foreign-born students remains above the 30% mark,  well over three times the dropout rate for white, U.S.-born students.

See also this important video:

We know that for many English Language Learners (ELL’s), the mispronunciation of their name is all too often the first of many setbacks they are experiencing in the classroom, while they are already very unlikely to work with a curriculum that respects or reflects their specific culture, or meet teachers who are speaking their native language.

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Results of the online collaboration project

I was reminded earlier this week that I hadn’t really said much about my own project in the course of these blog posts.  I think you will probably have gathered I’ve had a lot to reflect on and had an absolutely fabulous time in the Carolinas.

To be honest, it’s probably taken a couple of weeks since I’ve been home for the enormity of what happened to sink in. I was really pleased at how well-received the project was at the school, proud to have become a semi-finalist alongside another great US teachers –  and truly humbled that out of so many wonderful projects it won first runner-up in the collaboration category! WOW!

That means that we are well on track for the collaborative ways of working that were mentioned in my previous post and how impressive are our students with their world-class achievements! Read More

NJ migrant children face new barrier: school

One at a time, Maria Vasquez’s children crossed the treacherous border into the U.S.

They were fleeing violence and poverty in Guatemala and lured to New Jersey with the prospect of getting reunified with their mother in Union County and start a new life.


Two of Maria’s children crossed the frontier all by themselves, alone, and as unaccompanied minors.

The children got caught by U.S. Border Patrol officers, who sent them on to New Jersey, where they soon encountered a new barrier: sign up for public school!

Maria Vasquez’ children are two of the more than 5000 unaccompanied minors from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador that were placed with sponsor families in New Jersey by the federal government since end 2013.

An estimated seventy children are staying in various communities in Monmouth County, but the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement is not reporting counties where under fifty migrant children got resettled, such as Ocean County.

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How Creative Is Your Teaching?

Creative Teaching… Does it frequently involve artwork? Does it involve drama? Does it involve music? Does it involve some practical activity? Or does it involve making choices about a tech tool to use? Problem-solving? Open-ended tasks? Self-directed learning? Collaboration? Peer feedback?

I can be creative – I have spent many hours following a knitting or cross-stitch pattern. I have followed dressmaking patterns. I can follow a piece of music when playing my guitar or singing. But I think that is a different sort of creativity to the creativity I use in class.

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More Seniors Need ESL Skills Improvement

Literacy Volunteers East Bay is planning to provide an ESL (English as a Second Language) course starting early January.

Melanie Decker, Director of the Senior Center, made clear that there is growing demand for this kind of service because the non-native speaking part of the population is increasing, and lack of transportation options make ESL lessons in really needed.

Literacy Volunteers East Bay ‘s membership grows every day, says Decker, and over the last two years, we’ve seen an enormous increase in the number of people who have only limited or no command of English, and as they don’t have adequate (if any) transportation options to attend an ESL class, our community’s seniors may feel even more alone and isolated.

LV East Bay is already offering transportation services for all of its members, so participants of the ESL class (spearheaded by social worker Ann Albano) could avail themselves of this. at. The ESL class also comes with instruction in conversational skills, as they form the basis of any language course.

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