written by Patricia Willers, ESL instructor
This spring, Yolo County Library/Winters Community Library introduced an
impactful new program for community members. Thanks to the generosity of Winters Friends of the Library, each Friday night mid-January to mid-March, the lights of the meeting room burned bright as participants came to study English as a Second Language.
“Beginning Life Skills ESL Class for Caregivers in Rural Communities” was
modeled after the successful Esparto ESL course and was provided free of charge to local participants. The focus of the course was to help community members develop and practice English language skills to improve family and personal well-being and help caregivers and their dependents reach greater success. This course was taught by ESL instructor Patricia Willers (UC Davis). The response to the course was tremendous, with a full class of 25 participants, all Winters locals, and a waitlist as well. The ESL class taught language skills, of course, but also folded in lessons and content on nutrition, the California education system, Winters community events and local businesses, and much, much more.
Another critical element of the class was the weekly progressive lessons on
literacy. Using comprehension question starters, reading surveys and short stories in class, parents and caregivers were supported and encouraged to help their children read more and develop stronger literacy skills.
Participants received course texts free of charge, including an Oxford Picture Dictionary and Picture Dictionary Workbook for vocabulary development activities, a Longman ESL Literacy textbook, and additional children’s books and materials related to the Census, education, family health, and more.
Attendance remained strong throughout the course despite the late hour on Friday evenings. As the weeks progressed, it was impressive how hard students worked each week. It became clear that many, if not all, class members were experiencing struggle due to a lack of language skills. Whether communicating with neighbors, talking to their child’s teacher, or while conducting business or running errands in town, these community members were unable to go about their daily activities with confidence.
Mothers, fathers and grandparents were not the only ones present on Friday evenings. Children were welcome in the Winters Community Library Children’s Section as well, where RISE childcare led hands-on activities each week related to literacy, art, empowerment and personal health. On site support staff also included Leticia Flores, Early Childhood Educator and Yolo Reads Family Literacy Assistant, and Gloria Obando, Yolo Reads Adult and Family Literacy Assistant.
Unfortunately, the class was cut short by one week due to the County’s shelter-in- place order. However, it was clear that the program was a success. Numerous students and other Winters community members expressed interest in attending future classes to continue their English language development. Library and instructional staff, too, are hopeful that after the coming summer months focused on regaining health and stability in the community and nation, it will be possible to start the fall renewed and with many more Winters residents and caregivers ready to learn, share, and work together to strengthen their families and their community.