Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Literacy Project – Another CPL Gem

Two floors beneath the hustle and bustle of the main library lies one of its hidden gems: the Literacy Project.  Soon to return to its Central Square location when renovations to that branch are completed, the Literacy Project is a gathering spot for Cambridge’s newest residents who come for help with speaking, writing and reading English, and more.  Just as critical is the need for computer literacy, starting with the most basic tasks that many have not had an opportunity to experience.

And come, they do! On a recent Thursday afternoon, director Maria Balestrieri, with the help of three volunteers, was teaching an advanced conversation class.  The sound of two dozen adults soaking up knowledge was palpable.  Students were working in small groups, as staff stood close by. It was hard work, but also tremendous fun as students from a host of different countries converged in the L2 community room to share, learn, smile and feel like a part of something.

“I’m just the caretaker of the garden,” says Maria of her special charges. She is an avid cheerleader for the Project, which includes computer classes, English conversation, one-to-one tutoring, resume writing, job hunting and family literacy, all for a multi-national population.  When asked about the greatest highlights of her work, Maria describes the joy of seeing students get jobs; of volunteers getting turned on to teaching; of students who report the Literacy Project as the best part of their week; and of witnessing the formation of a group who truly feel a sense of belonging. “Believe it or not,” she says, “some of our students have even formed a soccer team!”

If you would like more information on how to volunteer with this extraordinary program or to contact Maria Balestrieri, click here.

There are always great things happening at the library!  For more information on how you can get involved with the Friends of the Cambridge Public Library, click here.

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