NORTH PLAINFIELD, NJ - Adults who wish to improve their English speaking skills are welcome to the North Plainfield Public Memorial Library on Monday nights for a “Conversation Group” that runs from 7:00 pm to 8:00 pm. The gathering is an opportunity to practice speaking English in a relaxed, informal setting.
This is a free program for area residents sponsored by Literacy Volunteers of Somerset County (LVSC) in association with the North Plainfield Public Library. The weekly class has many activities to encourage communication. They include word games, and discussions about travel, food, news, and entertainment as well as some lessons on pronunciation and grammar.
Marina Kennedy has been instructing ESL groups for over 10 years. She said that leading a conversation group has been both enjoyable and gratifying. “There are so many nice people in the community who wish to have better speaking skills. It is a pleasure to get together every week and have a chance to talk.” She also commented that the group is friendly and welcoming. “Participants can come to every class or whenever they can make it.”
The students attend for many different reasons. Some of the recent participants have joined so they can speak more where they work, communicate with their children’s teachers, help their children with homework, travel more, or to advance in their careers.
LVSC is a nonprofit organization with limited resources. They are grateful for their partnership with the library that supports the Conversation Groups by providing space for the groups to meet and promotes the program to its patrons. LVSC in turn trains and supports volunteers to provide literacy instruction. LVSC Conversation Groups are popular and have grown. Several years ago, LVSC offered 3 groups in 2 libraries. Today, they offer 13 groups in 11 county libraries that serve over 100 students weekly.
Aimee Lam, the Executive Director of LVSC commented, “I feel that Conversation Groups are beneficial to the community because they achieve more than just the goal of helping participants to improve their confidence with the English language; they also bring individuals from all over the world together in one room where ideas, thoughts, cultures, and many laughs are shared."
Elizabeth Pata, Adult Services Supervisor at the North Plainfield Public Library noted that that the conversation groups are the perfect example of continued lifelong learning and education. As lifelong learning is one of the missions of public libraries, it's a natural fit to collaborate on this service to further meet the needs of the community.
Pata commented, “I think it's extremely beneficial to the community to have these conversation groups at the library because being able to confidently express your opinions and ideas adds richness to the cultural landscape of a community. There are several resources available to learn how to read, write and understand English in our community, but there is a lack of places to actually practice speaking and get constructive feedback. These groups allow for dialogue, which in turn allows them to go back to their homes with the confidence to continue communicating with their neighbors.”
The North Public Memorial Library branch is located at 6 Rockview Avenue. You can call them at 908.755.7909 or visit http://somerset.lib.nj.us/northplainfield.htm.
Being a literacy volunteer is a great LVSC is always in need of new tutors and Conversation Group leaders! Training is provided. Interested volunteers can call the LVSC office at (908) 725-5430 or visit our website www.literacysomerset.org. For more information on Literacy Volunteers of Somerset County, please visit: www.literacysomerset.org.