Programs in Meriden, Wallingford help Spanish speakers access books

The Meriden Public Library is undergoing renovations and recently moved into a retail space in the Meriden Mall. Despite the change, programs run by Literacy Volunteers and Meriden and Wallingford Public Libraries are still open to help Spanish speakers access books.

“A lot of the Meriden community is Hispanic and we want them to feel like this is their library,” Lauren Thompson, community services manager for the Meriden Public Library, said in an interview. telephone. “They have an influence on what happens here.”

Meriden Public Library

Formerly housed in the Meriden Public Library, Literacy Volunteers of Greater New Haven is now located at United Way of Meriden and Wallingford, said Denise Calabrese, literacy program coordinator. Literacy Volunteers offers private lessons in basic literacy, math and English for speakers of other languages. Calabrese explained that a large number of students in the program speak Spanish, even though the program serves people from 32 countries.

Calabrese has worked with the organization for over 10 years and is passionate about improving literacy. She said being able to read and understand English had positive effects on the lives of students, even in the smallest areas. Citing diabetes prevention, stroke prevention, free school meals and even car safety as everyday benefits, Calabrese also pointed out that improving adult literacy has a generational impact on families.

“If parents are at the lowest literacy levels, they don’t bring home reading materials.” she says. “…which means that their children do not consider reading as a personal hobby. They equate it with work or school.

Literacy Volunteers connects students with tutors who help them improve their English skills during a weekly two-hour session, often online. However, Calabrese believes in-person meetings have the best results and tries to find times and spaces for face-to-face interactions between tutors and students. Calabrese is currently looking for volunteers to enroll in the fall semester training.

“If you can read, you can volunteer,” Calabrese said.

At the temporary public library in Meriden, colorful tablecloths and children’s furniture help brighten up the former retail space. Despite the reduced size of the new location, the library has 4,000 items in Spanish for adults and 3,000 for children. The collection includes high-interest books available for loan, including “Dominicana” by Angie Cruz, “Becoming” by Michelle Obama and “The Hill We Climb” by Amanda Gorman.

In addition, the library offers digital resources for users. E-books, audiobooks, and movies can be accessed through Hoopla. Additionally, language learning software and pronunciation guides are also available online.

For young readers, librarian Wanda Guzmán highlighted Latin pioneer picture books like “Selena,” “César Chávez,” and “Who Was Celia Cruz?” – all beautifully illustrated for young readers. Although she has her own nostalgic favorites, Guzmán stressed the importance of ordering books that young readers would be interested in reading.

“We try to keep it up to date,” she said. “The library staff do a great job of selecting books.”

Guzmán also added that bilingual book packages were available on request for readers who wanted the same book in two different languages. She highlighted popular graphic novel series like “Drama” and “Dogman” in English and Spanish editions.

Guzmán said story time, book talks and other fun events for kids are scheduled at the library throughout the summer. The library also offers young patrons access to Beanstack, a website/app combo that helps young readers track their summer reads, see what their friends are reading, earn digital badges, and win entries for a draw in August.

Meriden Public Library is open to suggestions from the community through the library’s online platforms — email, Instagram DM or Facebook private message, Thompson said.

Wallingford Public Library

In Wallingford, a similar program is underway in conjunction with Wallingford Schools. Additionally, part-time bilingual staff member Gina Cabrera is expected to help with the Summer Buddies program, a program that helps young readers maintain their reading skills over the summer.

“When children don’t read in the summer, they actually lose some of their reading skills,” library manager Jane Fisher said in a phone interview.

For adults, Fisher said there are programs like Spanish conversation groups on Thursdays and a collection that features 1,660 items in Spanish, mostly books.

“Our goal is to offer programs year-round, not just during Hispanic Heritage Month,” she said.

Both libraries are looking to expand their programming in the fall, including resuming an after-school homework help program, a Spanish language book club and Spanish tours at the Wallingford Library.

Latin American communities reporter Lau Guzmán is a corps member of Report for America, a national service program that places reporters in local newsrooms. To learn more about RFA, go to Guzmán can be reached at [email protected] Twitter: @lauguzm_n

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