“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

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.”

The Hidden Equity Factor

November 16, 2016 at 10:04 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Written by: Carole Bausell, Ed.D., Director of Academic and Student Affairs

LCNV Director of Academic and Student Affairs Dr. Carole Bausell recently attended a National Advancing Equity in Adult, Community College, and Career and Technical Education Symposium about advancing equity in adult education.

Since we have spent considerable time over the past year voicing our concerns about equity issues affecting the population we serve, I was tremendously interested to attend the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education’s (OCTAE) symposium—the National Advancing Equity in Adult, Community College, and Career and Technical Education Symposium on October 31, 2016.

In his keynote address, Secretary of Education John B. King, Jr. talked about the many groups in our society that face equity issues and celebrated the role of educators in their lives. When he lauded teachers who choose to focus on people’s potentials in lieu of their challenges, I couldn’t help but think of some of our own teachers here at LCNV who do the same.  But it was especially moving to hear Dr. King—who holds the top education job in the country—give tribute to the public school educators who mentored him and invested in him after he had lost both of his parents by the age of 12 years.

Dr. Johan Uvin, Acting Assistant Secretary for OCTAE, also spoke eloquently, addressing the importance of equity in federally funded initiatives. One such initiative, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), is intended to help advance those facing the greatest barriers to education and employment, including English language learners. (You may have read about WIOA in the Director’s Letter Spring 2016 by LCNV Executive Director Patti Donnelly). Dr. Uvin stressed the importance of access, persistence, and completion in education, the three pillars upon which all else relies. I couldn’t help but notice that included among Dr. Uvin’s impressive credentials is a Masters of Arts in teaching English to speakers of other languages.

We at LCNV see firsthand that adults who lack proficiency in English are unable to access many opportunities that the rest of us take for granted. Language limitations can serve as barriers to furthering your education, getting a job, obtaining medical attention, accessing social services, voting in an election, making friends, talking to your children’s teachers, and more. Language barriers also have multigenerational consequences, most notably affecting the achievement of children from homes where the adults do not speak English very well. Even when these first generation American children manage to go to college, they are much less likely to complete it than their peers.

Back during the 1990 census, the term linguistic isolation emerged to describe households where none of the adults speak English very well.  An effort was made to count and identify these families as they could potentially have difficulty communicating in the event of a disaster.

This concept continues to hold relevance today. Consider that according to the 2016 Fairfax County Human Services Needs Assessment, a quarter (25%) of households that speak Asian and Pacific Island languages and almost one fifth (19%) of those that speak Spanish live in linguistic isolation (based on 2014 Fairfax County data).

What is the emotional toll upon these families? At a profound level, language skills appear to build resilience in fragile refugee populations according to Language for Resilience, a research report from the British Council that my colleague Xavier Munoz shared with me.

Essentially, learning English not only enables folks to improve their lives, it also provides a protective factor for individuals who must restart their lives in new lands.

As we continue to develop and improve upon our academic program at LCNV, we rely on many of the things I heard that day at the symposium. We look to the power of teachers, instructional volunteers, and student advisors to help our students learn the language that will open doors in their lives. We look to the application of contextual learning in our Destination Workforce program to facilitate the ability to solve real world problems on the job. We look to the strength of our Family Learning program to help bridge gaps affecting both generations. We look to the potential of partnerships to assist our students in transitioning to other programs once they complete ours. And we know that as a society we have much more work to do on advancing equity, as some students continue to have less access than others to educational resources and success.

LCNV Revises Academic Programs: Tutoring has a New Role

August 26, 2016 at 10:13 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Written by: Carole Bausell, Ed.D., Director of Academic and Student Affairs, and Patti Donnelly, Executive Director, Literacy Council of Northern Virginia

 The Literacy Council of Northern Virginia is keeping up with the times.  Like many community-based literacy organizations around the country facing changing demographics,  LCNV has responded by studying the needs of its population and ultimately changing the way it delivers instruction.

Our History

Back in 1962 when the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia first opened its doors to the public, the client base comprised English-speaking adults who had not completed secondary education. These native-born adults enrolled at LCNV to learn to read and write, and one-to-one tutoring represented state-of–the-art instructional programming. In just a short time, this basic adult literacy (BAL) program accumulated long waiting lists, as the recruitment and training of volunteer instructors struggled to keep pace with the need.  The broad geographic service region presented a host of logistical challenges in matching trained volunteers, supporting the over two hundred tutor-learner matches, and supervising the quality of instruction.

Historically, Federal legislation[1] would play a major role in the inception of BAL programs, recognizing that adults who lacked basic skills faced significant challenges in the workforce.  In 1964, under the Johnson administration, the first federal grants flowed from the Office of Economic Opportunity to states on the basis of the relative number of persons 18 years old and older who had completed no more than five grades of school. More than 15 years would pass before President Reagan would sign into law the first discretionary program to support English as a Second Language (ESL) programs in 1981.

Over the ensuing 35 years, LCNV witnessed a steadily increasing demand for English as a second language (ESL) over BAL programming, as immigrants replaced native speakers as enrollees to the point where today they comprise 95% of its adult learner population. These students differed in their learning needs from the previous cohort of native speakers, and LCNV changed its programs accordingly.

An Evolving Academic Model

In response to the influx of ESL students, LCNV started an ESL classroom program, where students could experience a dynamic and interactive environment more conducive to teaching verbal communication.  While part of the tutoring program would also be allocated to these learners, the social learning environment of the classroom program proved more conducive to their needs than the relatively isolated and solitary tutoring paradigm. The classroom program also provided a more intensive approach with two-hour class sessions offered at least two evenings per week, a structure that yielded stronger educational gains.

Recently LCNV rolled out its most powerful intervention to date, wherein supplemental tutoring acts as an adjunct or boost to classroom-based instruction. In this new model, the classroom provides a socially interactive milieu multiple times per week, while teacher-supervised tutoring at the class site supplies explicit instruction in discrete areas of need. During a limited pilot trial, the combination of classroom and supplemental tutoring resulted in many unexpected benefits including continuity of instruction between the classroom teacher and the tutor; elimination of logistical problems associated with creating matches since tutors work with all students present on a particular day, and an influx of volunteers attracted by the shorter term tutoring commitment. The new model also satisfied learner demand for additional instructional time.

Plans for the Future

This fall LCNV will begin to expand the new Supplemental Tutoring program. The original tutoring model—Designated Tutoring—will be deployed much more strategically, continuing to serve the native born student for whom it was designed some fifty years ago, as well as those ESL matches currently in existence. New ESL registrants, however, will be assigned to tutor-enhanced classrooms. In the coming years LCNV looks forward to analyzing the new model and continuing to make program improvements aligned with the characteristics of its ever-changing learner population.

Current Learner Model

Learner Type Learning Environment Frequency
How we provide most intensive instruction
ESL Classroom
with small group instruction
and Supplemental Tutoring
Classes meet two or three times a week. Supplemental tutoring occurs once a week.
Native Born Community-based Designated Tutoring Once or twice a week

For a brief history of the Adult Education Act, see the following link http://bit.ly/2bFWhqj

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