For their parents and other adults in the community, the Ridgewood Public Library has worked to build up a successful ESL program that in recent years has expanded to serve an average of a hundred students each year.
“Years ago there was quite a long waiting list,” said Nancy Honsinger, who coordinates the program with Eileen Cuyler. That waiting list, she said, has disappeared as the program adjusted from its days of one-on-one tutoring to accommodate its influx of students, representing nearly 30 different countries.
The library still offers one-on-one tutoring for beginners, but has added small group lessons for intermediate students and larger conversation groups for more advanced speakers. Staff interview each student before the year begins to identify their needs, and tailor the number and types of classes to those the program will serve.
“We create the program around the students,” Honsinger said. “So we don’t know how many beginners or how many advanced students we'll have. But we’ll know in three weeks.”
Tutors, all volunteers, will be in this week for training by the library. They come from all backgrounds, and for some it’s a start in a new profession.
“We’ve had a number of tutors that go into academic training at a nearby university and go into ESL professionally,” Honsinger said. “And I always think that that’s a tribute to their experience here.”
The library has matched the program with a world literature collection, which features novels and periodicals in the non-English languages most common in the village. And with training materials and technology provided by the Friends of the Library and the Library Foundation, the classes are virtually free, with only a $10 per year registration fee.
Registration continues at the library Monday and Tuesday, with tutors set to begin their training on Thursday.
For both groups that sign up, Honsinger said, an added benefit of the program comes from the diversity of the countries the students come from and the varied experiences of the tutors.
“That makes the classes really interesting,” she said. “Because one of the things the tutors and the students are both interested in is other cultures.”