“I have a job to help my family.”

September 20, 2017 at 8:37 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

For many people, taking on a new job can be intimidating. There are so many things to get used to: new coworkers, new responsibilities, or a quirky printer. Imagine starting a new job and facing all of these things without having the language to communicate effectively. Many of LCNV’s students enter classes hoping to improve their English to advance in their career, or feel more comfortable speaking English in the workplace. LCNV learner Nora describes the value of learning English for the workplace in her 2015 essay.

“I am from Peru. I lived with my family in the capital Lima. I lived with my husband Juan, my three daughters, Jeanette, Connie, and Angie. I worked for 31 years at a school. I taught elementary school, 1st and 2nd grade.
In 2001 my boss said, ‘thank you, no more job for you.’ I took a vacation with my last daughter to Orlando, Florida. I saw the people that had jobs and I thought, in the United States there would be a job for me. So I came back to the U.S. on June 21st, 2001, for a job. I need work to help my daughters study in school and university. I now work at Lincolnia Academy daycare. I worked there for 14 years. I’m responsible for the baby room. Thank you, God, I have a job to help my family. I love the kids and babies.
I’m in English class because I hope to practice English, to speak very well to communicate to other people. In my job, I have to speak to the parents. I teach and read history to the kids. Thank you, Literacy Council, for the teacher helping me learn English.”



“In America You Have the Opportunity to Change Your Life”

September 13, 2017 at 8:05 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

LCNV’s curriculum for English language instruction includes a focus on U.S. civics and culture – the opportunities, procedures, and duties of Americans. With learners from 95 different countries, LCNV’s classes touch upon different aspects of life in the U.S. Some learners are first exposed to an understanding of their rights and responsibilities as U.S. residents or citizens in the LCNV classroom.

In 2014, LCNV asked learners to write essays based around the theme “See America Through My Eyes”. Students had spent part of their semester learning what it means to be American, and now had the opportunity to share their experience of America with the world. LCNV learner Tigist writes about her perspective on America, and the opportunity and culture that she holds dear.

“What I want Americans to know about my life is that I am from eastern Africa. Ethiopia is the poorest country in the world. In Ethiopia we don’t have a lot of opportunity. In America there is a lot of opportunity that you will get. In my opinion, I see that in America you have opportunity to change your life. A day in my life in America, I feel so safe. I have freedom and there is peace and democracy. In this case I feel so blessed. My experience in America is everybody is equal, nobody is better than anybody, and democracy. In America you can speak whatever you want. You have freedom to speak or to write your feelings.”

“We Help Each Other”

September 6, 2017 at 10:19 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

LCNV’s classes are filled with learners and volunteers of all backgrounds, professions, and interests. With all this diversity, one quality is constant: support. Each person supports the work of others in their class. When a learner is struggling at the whiteboard to write a sentence, other learners provide hints about the correct words. If a learner is tackling a difficult concept, they can get extra help in a small group before or after class. This willingness to help each other and work together to achieve success rings true to LCNV’s core value of collaboration, celebrated by everyone, from our Board of Directors to our students.

“I need the help of others and they are helping me,” writes LCNV learner Nonna. Her 2010 essay highlights the importance of collaboration, and the good things that happen when people work together.

“How do we help each other? When people are working they are already helping others. Some build houses, others live in them. Some work at the factory where they make clothing and shoes, others wear them. People cannot live without each other. They help others after work or when they do not work.

I think that I help others as best as I can. I can tell you how often others helped me. When I got sick, my husband, my children, and my co-workers helped me so that I would get better. The doctors helped me get better. When my husband passed away, I had help from my husband’s co-workers, my children, and from my friends. And when I was alone, my daughter asked me to come live with her so that I can feel better.

Now my children and my grandchildren are helping me. I look at my grandchildren and see that they are happy and I am happy with them. They help me in my life. My children live in the U.S.A. and I live here too. I need to speak English. My teacher, Dianne, is helping me with my English. She is a volunteer. I thank her for caring about me. My neighbors speak with me sometimes. And by this they are helping me. I need the help of others and they are helping me.”

“By Learning English I Have a Dream”

August 30, 2017 at 9:55 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Learning English opens the door to daily conveniences and great aspirations. Many of LCNV’s learners begin classes with a dream of getting a job, becoming entrepreneurs, or participating in politics. Others enter our programs hoping to make day-to-day tasks easier – they dream of riding the bus, going to the doctor, or grocery shopping. These dreams, large and small, are not mutually exclusive. The business owner working towards their goals needs to be able to fill out tax forms in English, and the student learning to order food in English may be inspired to open their own restaurant. LCNV strives to empower English language learners to fulfill their potential and realize their dreams. LCNV learner Xiang’s 2017 essay Learning English Gives Me Power explores the power of English – the importance of every day communication, and how, by learning English, students can change the course of their lives.

“By learning English I can call about health insurance. I can talk to my neighbors. I can go to a restaurant and order food. I can go to auto service and ask questions. Learning English makes me feel better than before. I understand more when American people speak.
By learning English I have a dream. I want to open a different and interesting store. The store will be about Chinese tea: how to make and how to do, the different water and different temperatures, and different teas. [It is all] very interesting.”

“I Hope to Complete College for Art”

August 23, 2017 at 9:24 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

As the end of August nears, schools and colleges throughout the country open their doors to a new school year. Here at LCNV, our new semester begins too! Literacy classes at LCNV help beginning-level adult learners reach their educational goals, in learning English and beyond. Many of our learners arrive with very little, if any, formal education. When they graduate from LCNV’s programs, they are lifelong learners eager to continue improving their education and opportunities. Read current LCNV learner Sayeda’s essay from 2015, in which she describes her goals for the future:

“By learning English, I hope to complete college for art or handmade like drawing or crochet and I want to get a job for government.” – Sayeda, LCNV Learner

“My Dream for My Future”

August 16, 2017 at 8:38 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

IMG_5208As we gear up for our new school year here at LCNV, it’s important to consider the many different reasons that our learners want to improve their English. So many of our learners study English to support their family, get a new job, or advance their education. One LCNV learner, Margoth, encapsulates her desires perfectly in her 2015 essay, “My Hopes and Dreams.” Read it below and consider what you can do to help more learners like Margoth make steps towards achieving their hopes and dreams!

  1. “My hope is learning English and can talk with other people, not to feel shy or embarrassed.
  2. My dream for my future is: To get my own business. I would like to get the license of the state of VA for childcare and to be a realtor.
  3. Someday I hope to: Travel to my country to see and hug my mom, my sister and my brothers.
  4. My dream is to have a better future for my son and my husband and to help my family in my country, Bolivia.” – Margoth, LCNV Learner

Happy National Book Lovers Day!

August 9, 2017 at 10:11 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Happy National Book Lovers Day! Here at LCNV, all of us care deeply about books. Our LCNV library is filled with great books for our learners, and there is nothing more exciting than seeing a learner connect with English through the power of written word.

In honor of the occasion, read LCNV learner Tyler’s essay from 2017’s Learning Gives Me Power essay book. His words illustrate the power of books, and how his life – and his community – has changed through English literacy:

“After I learned to read, I enjoyed reading library books and magazines. By reading magazines, I learned about how to fix up an old home.

Learning to read helped me to understand the community. It helped me to understand the homeless. The church asked my Sunday school class to help build some walls at the place where they were building apartments for the homeless.” – Tyler, LCNV Learner

LCNV Welcomes New Executive Director Roopal Mehta Saran

August 8, 2017 at 9:53 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Dear LCNV Community,

As you may know, Patti Donnelly, Executive Director of the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia, is retiring after 15 years of leadership. Patti’s unwavering commitment and dedication to adult literacy is truly inspiring, and her positive impact on the Literacy Council cannot be overstated. During her tenure the Literacy Council has grown to serve roughly 1,500 learners yearly throughout its 400 square mile service area. Under her leadership LCNV introduced its revolutionary new program model which provides the highest quality program to best serve the needs of the beginning-level English language learner. With LCNV’s new program model in place and a wonderfully talented staff, Patti leaves the Literacy Council poised for further growth and success under its new Executive Director, Roopal Mehta Saran.

All of us on the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia’s Board of Directors are thrilled to welcome Roopal. We came to this decision after an extensive process led by the executive search firm The McCormick Group. In the end, the Board-appointed search committee unanimously chose Roopal to take the reins at LCNV. She has the intellect, creativity, and understanding of the Literacy Council’s mission to take this organization to the next level.

Roopal most recently managed public-private partnerships with KaBOOM!, a national non-profit dedicated to bringing balanced and active play to the daily lives of all kids. Prior to KaBOOM!, she worked as Senior Director of Community Development at First Book, a national non-profit literacy organization. She received her BA in English and MA in Education from Stanford University, and her JD from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Roopal knows that excellence and collaboration are hallmarks of successful non-profit management. This, along with her background in education and passion for literacy and service make her the perfect fit to continue guiding LCNV’s growth and advance its reputation as a national leader in beginning-level adult education.

Roopal begins as Executive Director at LCNV on August 28. On behalf of everyone at LCNV, we look forward to welcoming her to our family, and to all that we can accomplish together.


Anne Spear
President, Board of Directors
Literacy Council of Northern Virginia

Destination Workforce®: Working Towards Literacy

July 7, 2017 at 1:09 PM | Posted in Destination Workforce, ESOL, Teaching | Leave a comment

Nationwide, 24% of the educated immigrant and refugee workforce is underemployed or unemployed [i], while over half of all immigrants in Fairfax County have limited English proficiency [ii]. LCNV’s Destination Workforce® is a response to these demographic and workforce demands. Developed as a fast-track language program for on-the-job or job readiness English language learning, each Destination Workforce® course is created in partnership with a local business or community organization. The class is customized to the specific needs of the partner, to cover industry or job specific vocabulary as well as U.S. work culture and professional etiquette. In the last few months, LCNV launched two unique Destination Workforce® programs in collaboration with different industry partners. Each is oriented towards helping individuals advance in their careers and job prospects.

The City of Alexandria’s Workforce Development Center VIEW Program sought LCNV’s expertise with beginning level English language and literacy learners to develop an intensive course to help newly arrived refugees – unable to read or write in their native languages and lacking any English proficiency – gain basic English literacy. As recipients of TANF funding, these clients are expected to assimilate and begin working within 90 days. With this 90-day deadline in mind, LCNV developed its most intensive beginning level Destination Workforce® program to date. The four week pilot class met four times a week for four hours at a time in Alexandria and was led by one teacher and three class aides, keeping the student-instructor ratio around 3:1. The course curriculum covered the very basics of workforce-English readiness to enable new immigrants to assimilate into the world of U.S. employment.

In the classroom, the students started tentatively but made great strides in a short period of time. The students’ initial fears of learning a new language – for some, this was their first formal classroom experience –evaporated quickly, and they readily made introductions and spoke about their newfound English skills by the end of the course. One of the key achievements that the students reported was their ability to speak about their personal information (such as their address, name and phone number) and their improved comfort and confidence while speaking English. The testing results also demonstrate just how far these students have come in a short period of time: all but one of the post-tested students made gains in their Best-Plus 2.0 scores. In fact, a majority of these students jumped one or even two Educational Functioning Levels! The husband of one of the students recently wrote, “Although the duration of this course was short and its content was very basic, [my wife] has learnt a lot. She is so happy the way she was [taught] and treated by her class teacher and class aides. According to some of her classmates who have been to other similar classes, this was the best class they have ever been [in].”  LCNV is thrilled to provide these students with the first steps toward the path to workforce readiness, and is already planning a follow-up class for the same cohort focused on their speaking skills and how to approach the job application process.

One of the core competencies in Destination Workforce® programs is to improve the learners’ understanding of formal speech. Success is measured when formal requests by supervisors are understood correctly the first time, leading to higher levels of productivity and better communications. In industries where formal requests come from customers such as hospitality, this improves levels of customer service and satisfaction.  An example of Destination Workforce® in the hospitality industry is LCNV’s partnership with B.F. Saul’s Crowne Plaza in Tysons Corner, VA.

LCNV began its partnership with B.F. Saul with the help of Tysons Partnership, a nonprofit collaborative of Tysons Corner Stakeholders. B.F. Saul had previously tried on-site ESL instruction for hospitality staff that was met with limited success, and sought a partnership with LCNV to increase employee successes in learning English. With 12 different employees participating, the Crowne Plaza-Tysons Corner class is off to a great start. Curriculum is focused on the day-to-day service provided by these employees, all of whom are housekeeping or banquet staff. One of the goals outlined by B.F. Saul is for their employees to “Know Your Hotel”. This means that employees will be able to answer standard job-related questions such as “where is the pool?” On an average day in the classroom, employees can be seen practicing dialogues about special requests for room preparation, or learning how to answer questions from customers about food options. During the development of this program, Crowne Plaza-Tysons Corner has been an outstanding partner. Employees meet twice a week for two hours while on the clock, and receive free lunch during class time. LCNV applauds Crowne Plaza-Tysons Corner for making this investment in the professional development of its dedicated employees.

LCNV will be expanding its Destination Workforce® programs with the help of new and committed partners during the 2018 fiscal year. The Literacy Council looks forward to expanding access to employee literacy programs with even more partners in the coming months.

[i] McHugh, Margie and Madeleine Morawski. 2015. Immigrants and WIOA Services: Comparison of Sociodemographic Characteristics of Native- and Foreign-Born Adults in the United States. Washington, DC: Migration Policy Institute.

[ii] PolicyLink and The USC Program for Environmental and Regional Equity. 2015. Equitable Growth Profile of Fairfax County. Oakland, CA: PolicyLink.

Family Literacy Definition for LCNV

December 16, 2016 at 11:49 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment


At LCNV, our Family Learning Program (FLP) is defined by both the Federal Adult Education and Family Literacy Act and by our own unique mission statement. The Federal Act states, in part:

Family literacy refers to a continuum of programs that addresses the intergenerational nature of literacy. Under the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act, Title II of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998, family literacy programs integrate (1) interactive literacy activities between parent and child; (2) training in parenting activities; (3) literacy training that leads to economic self-sufficiency; (4) age appropriate education to prepare children for success in school and life experiences…Family literacy programs vary from one community to another as each program works to meet the needs of the participants and the community as well.

Further, LCNV specifies that family literacy includes language and literacy education that empowers adults to participate more fully and confidently in their communities. The population that LCNV serves is primarily that of non-native language speakers. Our Family Learning Program focuses significantly on building the English language skills of the parent which, in turn, provides positive modeling for the child. The English language skills that the adults are taught are done so within a framework of family-related topics such as school, community, work, health and nutrition to name a few.

The traditional model of family literacy focuses on small children, but at LCNV, we also conduct programs in middle schools. In the traditional model, PACT (Parent and Child Time) activities are conducted in the classroom once or twice a month to foster family literacy. Activities include arts and crafts, singing and more but mainly focus on caregivers reading to and conversing with their children. In the middle schools, we encourage family interactions through conversations around timely issues that affect middle-schoolers. Activities are based on family discussions around the dinner table. Emphasis is on understanding and discussing topics with reading and writing to follow.

Additionally, Family Service Projects can also serve as PACT activities is both types of programs. In these activities, the parents and children come together to identify and work on a community issue of interest and importance to them. Family Service Projects can be varied and diverse. It can be anything from volunteering at the local food bank, visiting the local library to learn about their services, to helping with voter registrations in their neighborhoods or helping their school with an ongoing project. In both programs, family interactions promulgate the notion that “parents are supported as the first teacher of their children.”

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