Alexandrians: Act Now to Stop Cuts to Library Hours

April 29, 2013 at 2:54 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Alexandrians: Act Now to Stop Cuts to Library Hours

DSC00727We understand through an LCNV volunteer tutor that the City of Alexandria’s proposed FY 2014 budget calls for reducing the number of evenings each library branch will be open.  Since LCNV’s volunteer tutors rely on public libraries, we encourage you to call or write your public officials to urge them to maintain the libraries’ current hours of operation.

Go to to read more and to leave a comment directly on the City of Alexandria website. See below for sample text that you can modify and additional information about whom to contact:


I am a volunteer literacy tutor for adults through the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia. Dozens of us frequently rely upon the branches of the Alexandria Library with evening hours in order to meet with their students. Plans to curtail evening hours will have an adverse effect on our ability to meet with adult learners, many of whom work during the day.

Making libraries less accessible can have far reaching ramifications. Please support the literacy needs of Alexandria’s adult learners by maintaining evening hours at your libraries.



You can post your comments on the budget on the City of Alexandria’s website at , or you can call and leave a message at 703-746-4550 or 703-746-4500. You can also email the following public officials:

Mayor William Euille:

Allison Silberberg:

John Taylor Chapman:

Timothy Lovain:

Redella Pepper:

Paul Smedberg at

Justin Wilson at

Thank you for helping our learners!

Elise Bruml, Director of Tutoring Programs
Literacy Council of Northern Virginia
2855 Annandale Rd., Falls Church, VA 22042

Keep the Conversation Going

April 26, 2013 at 10:25 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Keep the Conversation Going

On April 18, LCNV began a critical dialogue about bridging the gap between adult literacy and language education, and our region’s workforce needs. Everyone involved – from the emcee, moderator, and panelists to volunteers, and in-person and online participants — helped make Literacy Means Business a successful forum.

Highlights included:

  • Jeff Connor-Naylor, Northern Virginia Program Director for The Commonwealth Institute, affirmed the region’s need for workers with “middle skills” and a “long-term approach to training.”  (5:54)
  • Ray Uhalde, Senior Advisor at Jobs for the Future, asserted that in the region over half the jobs will require some post secondary education and training. He stated, “Employers [face a] talent pool that is smaller and shrinking. In Northern Virginia we could import more labor, but prefer to grow our own.” Echoing Connor-Naylor, Uhalde suggested that “Northern Virginia build [the] career pathway system so [one] can move from basic literacy up to more advance skills, and we can grow our own talent.”
  • Leslie Kronz, Training and Education Consultant at the Office of Health Equity, Inova Health System, called attention to the different ways Inova’s need for literacy and English language education affects both patients and staff. (22:47)
  • Laura Patching, Acting Chief, Office of Citizenship, US Citizenship & Immigration Services, noted: “Citizenship allows full equality under the law. There is no straight path to [civic] integration. Our candidates have to be able to gain the English language knowledge to be able to be successful in the naturalization process.” Advocating for standards and research on adult education, she added: “We find in the citizenship realm that people come into our classes with very low literacy levels. The assumption is that along the way they would have had access to quality adult education and ESL – but that’s not the case. If you cannot build a quality program, you will lose people.” (26:03 and 47:08)
  • Johan Uvin, Deputy Assistant Secretary for the U.S. Department of Education, also proposed that employers can help identify workers who they would like to progress and help those workers in the following ways: give them release time or situate onsite literacy programs; engage with service providers; and be sure their instruction is aligned with the needs of the workforce.(31:16, 53:27, and 1:11:43)
Literacy Means Business is just the start of a much longer conversation, which needs to continue. Stay connected with us in the following ways: 
  1. Click here to view the full 1.5 hour forum.
  2. Become a LCNV volunteer and attend our upcoming ESOL Tutor Training Workshop.
  3. Attend LCNV’s Annual Recognition Event on June 20. Hear from our students about the different ways literacy has impacted their lives.
  4. Like us on Facebook and share our posts.

Patricia M. Donnelly, Executive Director
Literacy Council of Northern Virginia
2855 Annandale Rd., Falls Church, VA 22042

LCNV’s Volunteer Service Model Inspires Beneficiaries to “Pay It Forward”

April 24, 2013 at 9:41 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on LCNV’s Volunteer Service Model Inspires Beneficiaries to “Pay It Forward”

From its start 50 years ago, LCNV has grounded its work in the “each one, teach one” model of service. We advance our mission by training and supporting over 700 volunteers to educate our 1,500 adult learners annually. Learners represent 85 countries and speak 60 languages. They range in age from 18 to 98, and include native English speakers whom the education system, economy, or society has left behind, and immigrants who arrived here by choice or force and hope to make new lives for themselves.  What they all have in common is a commitment and desire to improve their English skills, which are below the fifth-grade level, and improve their lives. In honor of National Volunteer Week, we recognize and celebrate how LCNV’s model of service inspired three of our learners to become volunteers themselves.

Yonas Kebede

Yonas hails from Ethiopia and now lives in Alexandria. He met his volunteer tutor, John, a year ago. Yonas was so appreciative of his tutor and impressed that John wanted to teach him without pay. He asked his tutor how he could repay him. John told Yonas, “The best way to pay is to pay it forward [when you are] in a position to help others.” Yonas went back to Ethiopia for an extended visit and volunteered at a local church’s home for the elderly, “who have no one to care for them.” Yonas realized the poor conditions of the facility and wanted to do more to help his elders. He reached out to his American-based Ethiopian community and raised over $800 to support this home. He was able to buy provisions for the home including personal care products and food.

Linda, another LCNV student, came to Fairfax from Taiwan and spoke very little English. She appreciates the many people who helped her when she came to the U.S. and thanks her LCNV volunteer tutor, Julia, who helps her study English. “When I have time, I want to give back,” she says. And give back she does! For the last year, Linda has been going to D.C. every morning to serve breakfast to the homeless. She is also a volunteer with the Tzu Chi Foundation and has helped raise funds for victims of Hurricane Sandy, assisted clients with tax returns, and cooked at a senior citizen center.

Eddie and Whiskey_BAL

Last, but certainly not least, Eddie was born and raised in the U.S. He lives in a supportive facility in Arlington and has been working with his volunteer tutor, Deborah, for nearly two years. With her help, Eddie has gained strides in his ability to communicate his feelings verbally and in writing with confidence. He has seen his job opportunities expand: he was promoted from a part-time to full-time position at the Pentagon, and has gained additional part-time employment. Eddie recently got a pet cat, Whiskey, that he adores. On his own initiative, he explored opportunities to work with cats and is now pursuing a volunteer position at a local animal shelter.

It goes without saying that the Literacy Council cannot run its programs without the support and dedication of over 700 volunteers. These volunteer educators inspire us every day with their initiative, motivation, and commitment to helping others achieve their goals. Today, we recognize how they have inspired and supported the people they serve to pay it forward.

Ruba Marshood Afzal, Director of Volunteers
Literacy Council of Northern Virginia
2855 Annandale Rd., Falls Church, VA 22042

Engage with Fellow LCNV Volunteers!

April 22, 2013 at 9:49 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Engage with Fellow LCNV Volunteers!

la ciudadWHEN: Friday, April 26, from 6:30 – 8:30 pm 

WHERE: Literacy Council of Northern Virginia, 2855 Annandale Rd, Falls Church, VA 22042 

In celebration of National Volunteer Week, LCNV will host a screening of The City (La Ciudad), followed by a group discussion with staff and your fellow volunteers. Pizza and refreshments will be provided. RSVP to

MOVIE SYNOPSIS: The City (La Ciudad) presents four vignettes depicting the struggles of Latin American immigrants in New York City. Beautifully shot in black and white, the separate stories – “Bricks,” “Home,” “The Puppeteer,” and “Seamstress” – are connected by images from a studio photographer shooting portraits of the people in his community. The City (La Ciudad) tells stories of loss, love, frustration, and hope as four people recently arrived in a large city struggle to build their lives, communities, and dreams. 

You Can Help LCNV Win $30,000 Today!

April 17, 2013 at 11:03 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on You Can Help LCNV Win $30,000 Today!

HowGive to Spring2ACTion!*BR
When:  TODAY – Wednesday, April 17th
Where: Online at

  • Individual donors will be randomly chosen hourly from 10am – 10pm and their designated nonprofit will receive an additional $100 donation.
  • $500 cash grants will be awarded to nonprofits reaching designated levels on the leader board.
  • The nonprofit with the most number of unique donors can win $5,000.

To make the pot sweeter, an anonymous LCNV donor will match all new and increased gifts duringSpring2Action.LCNV’s goal is to raise $3,500. Will you help us reach our goal? 

Tell your friends by forwarding this email. Share it on Facebook and Twitter. Follow the leader board and help us get to the top!

Please note: Spring2ACTion donations are not eligible for the Neighborhood Assistance Tax Credit.

* LCNV is partnering with ACT for Alexandria to donate 5% of funds raised during Spring2ACTion to The Boston Foundation to support those impacted by the recent tragedy.


WHEN: Thursday, April 18, from 7:30am – 9:30am

WHERE: Gannett/USA Today Corporate Headquarters (Tysons Corner)

Join emcee Zuzana Steen from Micron Technology, Inc., and moderator Kavitha Cardoza, Education Reporter, WAMU 88.5 FM, along with prominent leaders from The Commonwealth Institute, Inova Health System, U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services, Jobs for the Future, and U.S. Department of Education for a conversation on strengthening our region’s workforce through adult literacy and language education. REGISTER NOW! 

Should the “E” in STEM education stand for English?

April 16, 2013 at 11:52 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Should the “E” in STEM education stand for English?

IMG_5412There has been so much discussion about focusing on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education in the K – 12 school system.  While I see the strong case for preparing our young people for the jobs of the future, I also see a lack of good English writing skills, literacy skills, and a basic lack of communication skills in English, for those students who are new to our country. Northern Virginia has, and continues to attract, a strong base of employers who depend on a highly-skilled and technology-experienced workforce. There is a workforce skills gap now, and it will be even greater in the future. Preparing young people for those future jobs is, indeed, important. Yet not at the expense of teaching quality writing and communication skills, and also English language skills to those families in need. And I do mean families in need. Not just school-aged children who might receive some English language instruction as part of their school day or special after-school programs, but also their parents.

According to a recent article by Carole Thompson Cole in the Capital Business Journal of The Washington Post, “Forty-one percent of kids under age 18 in this region have at least one immigrant parent, and limited English skills make them less likely to graduate, attend college or qualify for high-skilled jobs.” We also know that if parents do not have strong language and literacy skills, their children will be left behind their peers before they even start school. Students going home to households where parents cannot read, cannot speak English, and cannot help their children navigate opportunities will remain at a disadvantage as they move through the school system. These are the parents we need to teach now, in order to prepare the next generation for the workforce needs of the future. STEM will not be useful for the 41 percent of school children who do not know basic English, and they will struggle with learning everything, including STEM, without the help of educated parents.

Please let us look at a broader picture of education for our children when talking about preparing them for the workplace. Include English language education, as needed, for children and parents, and continue to focus on English literacy and communication skills.

You can learn more about this important topic by attending Literacy Means Business on April 18, hosted by the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia. Go to for more information.

Patricia M. Donnelly, Executive Director
Literacy Council of Northern Virginia
2855 Annandale Rd., Falls Church, VA 22042

Learning: A Life-Long Journey

April 10, 2013 at 2:20 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Learning: A Life-Long Journey

Severina and Nora, LCNV learners at Lincolnia Senior Center

I have a wonderful level 3 class that I teach on Tuesdays and Thursdays at Lincolnia Senior Center in Alexandria, VA. This class inspires me every day and challenges me to be a better teacher. This class is such a compassionate group of individuals that really want to learn not just English, but learn about and from each other. Two students who really stood out to me on my first day of teaching there were Severina and Nora, who happen to be best friends. I would like to share their stories and some of their own writing.

Nora is 63 years old and from Peru. She has been living in the United States for 11 years. She taught Elementary School in Peru for over 30 years, and now she works with the daycare at Lincolnia Senior Center. She said “my biggest accomplishments are my three daughters, my grandson, and now learning English. I want to thank the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia for teaching my English.” To have an amazing educator who has been teaching for more than 40 years thank me and the Council is very humbling. It is amazing how the education comes around full circle, where the teacher learns just as much from the student as the student learns from the teacher.

Severina is 84 years old and is from Bolivia. She has been living here for eight years. Severina was a very famous woman and piano player in Bolivia. She was in the newspaper every week for her music. She received a national award for higher education from the government of Peru and was decorated with many other accolades. In 1983, Severina founded a music school for children who were gifted with, what she says, “a good ear and beat for music.” She taught and supervised this school. Many famous musical artists came from this school, such as Surimana Bolivia, which is an extremely famous band in Bolivia currently. Her daughter works in D.C. as a representative for international affairs and was recently decorated by the U.S. government for her work in Latin American Women International Affairs Aid. She is extremely proud of her three children because they are “professionals” as she puts it. 

Severina came to the U.S. after a divorce, leaving most of her family to find a new beginning. I asked her to write a letter about her new beginnings, and this is what she wrote, “I decided to learn English better and register with Literacy Council of Northern Virginia. Learning English gave me new opportunities in my life. I started talking to my neighbors. I met new friends in Linconia Senior Center. Now I teach [free] piano and Spanish classes in the center. The amazing thing is that at my age, I found Richard. We share many moments together. On weekends we go to concerts. After that he invites me to dinner. The month of August we traveled to Bolivia to meet my family,and  in December we traveled to Kansas City to meet his family. Both families share our happiness. Now we are looking for the appropriate time to get married and to make our dreams a reality: to achieve a complete happiness forever with God’s blessing.”

Learning is a life-long journey and these two students show that it doesn’t matter your age, you never stop learning. To be able to teach these two amazing women English is my pleasure. I am the one who is lucky to have them to learn from. In the last class Severina told me, “I love to give advice to the younger people. Everything happens for a reason. Look at my life, I was meant to come here. You prepare your life.”

Katherine Lee, AmeriCorps Instructor
Literacy Council of Northern Virginia
2855 Annandale Rd., Falls Church, VA 22042

LCNV Welcomes Two New Staff Members

April 8, 2013 at 4:53 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on LCNV Welcomes Two New Staff Members

Ashley KingLCNV is happy to welcome Ashley King to its staff in a brand new position for the organization – Student Advisor. This position was funded by a generous grant from Capital One. Ashley graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University with BA’s in History and Spanish. Before moving to Northern Virginia, she volunteered as an ESOL Instructor and Program Director for four years at the Bridge Community Development Corporation in Richmond, Virginia. As Student Advisor, Ashley monitors student hours and encourages individual students to stay engaged in LCNV’s programs, especially as they reach hourly requirements between assessments. She counsels learners on setting goals and provides individualized advice for reaching those goals. Additionally, Ashley supports LCNV learners who are ready to exit our programs. She encourages and guides them on their next steps, easing their transitions into more advanced programs.

Carole Professional Headshot1We are also delighted to announce that Carole Vinograd Bausell has joined LCNV’s staff as the Basic Adult Literacy (BAL) Tutoring Specialist. She holds a doctorate in education from Johns Hopkins University with specialization in literacy and learning disabilities, a master’s degree in special education from the University of Delaware, and a Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults (CELTA) from Cambridge University. In addition to coauthoring a set of books on teaching reading, writing, and mathematics, Carole has tested and taught students with learning challenges; instructed adult ESOL learners; and occupied a variety of program management, editorial, and research positions. She was the recipient of a State of Maryland Governor’s Award for her volunteer work with refugees. Carole will work with two types of learners in LCNV’s BAL Tutoring Program helps two types of students: native English speakers who have experienced difficulties in learning how to read and write and ESOL learners who speak English reasonably well but need to improve their English reading and writing skills. Carole’s educational background and work experience will enable LCNV to strengthen its services for both groups.

We’d also like to thank Katie Beckman for doing a wonderful job of keeping the wheels of the BAL Tutoring Program turning smoothly during LCNV’s search for our BAL Tutoring Specialist. Carole’s arrival will allow Katie to resume her work as Programs and Trainings Administrator and to continue her work on developing a computer literacy pilot program for LCNV.

Both Ashley and Carole are looking forward to getting to know LCNV’s volunteers in the months ahead and to supporting them in any ways they can. LCNV will benefit greatly from both of their expertise and enthusiasm.

Erin Finn, Director of Classroom Programs, and Elise Bruml, Director of Tutoring Programs
Literacy Council of Northern Virginia
2855 Annandale Rd., Falls Church, VA 22042

Early education of disadvantaged children pays extremely high returns

April 4, 2013 at 11:08 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Early education of disadvantaged children pays extremely high returns

IMG_5121Nearly 48% of Fairfax County residents who moved here during 2010 were ethnic or racial minorities and one-third were immigrants. Among the general population of Fairfax County, 36% speak a language other than English at home, compared to 14.1% of the population of Virginia. Many of these non-English speaking Fairfax County residents are parents. In fact, in September 2012, The Washington Post reported, “The number of Fairfax County students who speak a foreign language at home is likely to surpass 50 percent of the school population for the first time this month.”

LCNV applauds the efforts of Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS), our long-time partner in the Northern Virginia education continuum. To dovetail with FCPS, we tailor our programs to the needs of 1,500 adults annually with very beginning ESOL skills, who are the parents, grandparents, and caregivers of over 900 FCPS students. In particular, LCNV’s Family Learning Program (FLP) equips these adults with the skills they need to help their children with homework and advance in school. Over the last three years, our Family Learning Program filled to 96% of capacity, demonstrating the great need for this program. All FLP parents speak a language other than English and often rely on their children to serve as translators at doctor appointments, stores, and banks. Over 80% live at or below 200% of the federal poverty level, and 50% do not have any high school education. Attending FLP is a vital first step for these families to lift themselves out of poverty and into opportunity. As Eduardo Porter’s recent article in The New York Times and countless studies demonstrate, if parents do not take this first step of language and literacy education, these children will continue to be left behind their peers.

From July 1, 2011, through June 30, 2012, LCNV’s Family Learning Program served 141 adults and 181 of their dependent children. Among the adults:

  • 50 improved test scores by two points, demonstrating improvement in their educational functioning levels;
  • 95 achieved two or more personal learning goals;
  • 89 reported increased involvement in their children’s education;
  • 27 achieved citizenship skills;
  • 50 entered or retained employment; and
  • 63 increased involvement in community activities.

The words of our learners best demonstrate the success of FLP. In one semester, Lydia improved from a first- to eighth-grade English skill level. FLP made a difference in both her and her son’s life:

“I have a child. He is four years old. When I came here I didn’t understand English. I felt frustrated but I have one goal: I need to learn English, because I have a child and he needs help with homework. Also, I have a dream to speak and read English perfectly to get a better job and good opportunity in my life. I can do it!”

As Eduardo Porter states in his article, “Investment in the early education of disadvantaged children pays extremely high returns down the road.” To make an investment today and change the lives of a learner and their children in LCNV’s Family Learning Program, go to All new and increased gifts will be matched dollar-for-dollar from now through June 30, 2013!

Suzie Eaton, Senior Director of Development
Literacy Council of Northern Virginia
2855 Annandale Rd., Falls Church, VA 22042

Literacy Means Business

April 3, 2013 at 5:10 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

There is so much talk these days about various approaches to education, immigration, and what makes sense for getting everyone ready for the jobs of the future. Just this weekend in The New York Times, Thomas Friedman presented that people will just have to invent their own jobs, relying on creativity and innovation. Hard to do that if you do not speak English, and harder for your kids if you have not been able to read to them, involve yourself in their school progress, and give them the solid start in language that a native English speaker can provide – which everyone in academia acknowledges is critical to success.

One of the many reasons I’m excited about Literacy Means Business on April 18th is that the public and private sectors will be in one room discussing adult education, English language literacy, and the workforce of the future. Connecting the dots on the importance of adult English language literacy on today’s workforce and the workforce of the future will be a stimulating and informative morning. I hope everyone in the audience will leave with more information about how important this subject is, and how we all can be part of the solution to the problem of English language illiteracy.

Anne Spear, LCNV Tutor, Tutor Trainer, and Board of Directors Member
Literacy Council of Northern Virginia
2855 Annandale Rd., Falls Church, VA 22042


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