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

Indefinite and Definite Articles

August 19, 2016 at 11:30 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Written by Xavier Munoz, Faculty Support Manager, LCNV 

Grammar has to do with rules. To what extent do you agree or disagree?

To explore that opening statement, let’s take a partial look at the English articles – a/an, the, and the zero or no article.

Now, those of you who teach might be thinking that English articles are incredibly difficult for students. “I taught them the rules for when to use a/an vs. the, and they can answer grammar exercises correctly. But, unless I tell them to, they don’t apply the rules in their speaking or writing.” Sound familiar? Even advanced learners may make errors when using the articles. And, in truth, research in second language acquisition has found that language learning is not linear, not sequential. Language learners continue to build accuracy, meaningfulness, and appropriateness to their grammar and vocabulary as their proficiency develops.

But how would you explain or teach the English articles? Chances are that you might be thinking of descriptors like nonspecific or general for the indefinite article – a/an. Or you might be thinking to pair articles with count and noncount nouns in a unit on, say, food, clothing, or furniture. (Side note: the word some is often considered the plural form of the indefinite article.) If we take our cue from textbooks, we might see a leveled approach like the following. The low-beginning text All-Star 1 explicitly presents it as such: Articles: a and an

We use a before a singular noun that starts with a consonant or consonant sound. We use an before a singular noun that starts with a vowel or vowel sound.

The high-beginning text All-Star 2 explicitly presents it like this: Count and Noncount Nouns

Singular count nouns: We use a and an before singular count nouns.

Plural count nouns: We use no article before plural count nouns.

Noncount nouns: We use no article before non-count nouns.

The low-intermediate text Downtown 3 explicitly presents it like this: Indefinite vs. definite articles

We use indefinite articles (a, an) for singular count nouns. We use them to talk about a general category of something. Example: Give me a book. (any book, not a special book)

We use the definite article (the) for a special or specific thing or things. We use the when there is only one of something (the White House), when the speaker and listener both know which thing they are talking about (the beach was wonderful today), or when they talk about a noun for the second time. Example: I saw a movie last night. The movie was really boring.

There’s more to articles than is mentioned above – generic sentences, abstract nouns, geographical places, illnesses, etc. But we don’t want to overload our students (or ourselves, for that matter!) with all of the nuances. Can we make it easier though? Yes! Larsen-Freeman (2000) suggests that learners can better understand and use grammar if they learn the reasons behind seemingly arbitrary rules. And the core reason is listed in the Downtown 3 description: a/an is for introducing new information, the first mention; the is for information known by both the speaker/writer AND the listener/reader, the second mention. We can see this discourse-level use especially in jokes and stories. Just as I might do in class, I will try to draw your attention to the target grammar by using bolding and underlining.

A reporter meets a man carrying an eight-foot-long metal stick and asks, “Are you a pole vaulter?” “No,” says the man, “I’m German. But how did you know my name is Walter?


See if you can fill in the appropriate article in the following excerpt, from an Indian folktale.

Once upon a time, __ fox and __ squirrel were friends. Farming was their livelihood. __ squirrel was jealous of __ fox because his crop always turned out so much better. This time __ fox was cultivating pumpkins.

Source: Excerpt from “The Dexterity of a Squirrel” in Folktales of India by Brenda Beck, Peter Claus, Praphulladatta Goswami, Jawaharlal Handoo

In both of the examples above, the difference between a/an and the is revealed through the discourse-level context (i.e., above the level of the single sentence). Even at a beginning-level, I think it is to our learners’ benefit that we not shy away from exploring language above the single sentence. We needn’t necessarily expect them to produce that much language, but we can draw their attention to meaningful and appropriate use of grammar to prime them for future learning explorations. Check it out for yourself. Look through a textbook you’re currently or recently have used with a student. Or look through something you read recently. Do you notice instances of first mention, second mention?

In summary, Grammar has to do with rules AND reasons. Reasons can help learners see the logic woven into the grammar, rather than just seeing it as random or arbitrary rules. At the discourse level, we can see that there is a shift from the indefinite article a/an to the definite article the based on what the speaker/writer assumes that their audience knows. We use the indefinite article for new information or first mention of a particular thing. We shift to the definite article for familiar information or second mention of that same thing. The definite article is also used when referring to unique objects.

Indefinite and Definite Articles

Larsen-Freeman, D. (2000). Grammar: Rules and Reasons Working Together. ESL Magazine, 3(1), 10-12.

Late Registration Saturday February 6

February 5, 2016 at 5:05 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Late registration for beginning-level adult English classes will be held on Saturday, February 6 from 3-6pm at James Lee Community Center. Please see the Schedule section for more information on registering for our classes.

Thank you for another great year

December 30, 2015 at 11:00 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

As 2015 comes to a close, all of us here at the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia (LCNV) would like to take a few moments to reflect on the last year, and to thank you for being a part of our wonderful community of learners, volunteers, donors, community partners, and supporters. Some of our notable accomplishments this year include:

Family Learning Program in Herndon

Family Learning Program in Herndon

  • Added three new sites to our Family Learning Program
  • Served over 1,500 learners
  • LCNV volunteers provided over 30,000 hours of service
  • Completed the pilot program for the Destination Workforce™ initiative, which delivers career-specific language and literacy training
  • Awarded the Bank of America Neighborhood Builders Grant, which recognizes strong nonprofit organizations that provide essential services to their communities
  • Featured in the 2015-2016 Catalogue of Philanthropy: Greater Washington as one of the region’s best community-based charities
  • Board President Kitty Porterfield recognized by Volunteer Alexandria as Board Leader of the Year

We would also like to take this time to remind you that tax deductible donations are due by December 31st, so there is still time to make your year-end gift! Twenty-six percent of LCNV learners receive scholarships to pay their $60 class fee. Your donation can help cover their fees as well as offset the additional costs of providing teachers and books. You can also still take advantage of our matching gift challenge* and see your donation dollars go further.

We hope that you are enjoying the holidays, and thank you once again for all that you do.
* During LCNV’s matching gift challenge any new gifts or increase from your last donation will be matched by an anonymous donor up to $20,000, so your gift will have an even greater impact on LCNV learners. The maximum individual match is $2,500.

Exciting Events This Week

December 7, 2015 at 3:18 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Thanks to everyone who participated in Giving Tuesday last week, showing their support to the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia (LCNV) and the charitable giving movement. Along with continuing to raise awareness about the importance of adult literacy, we received over $4,400 in donations! As the holidays approach, if you haven’t made your end of the year gift yet please consider a donation to LCNV.

AmCorpsandSantaWe’d also like to remind you about two exciting events coming up this week – our annual Holiday Potluck Party on Tuesday December 8 from 6-8pm at the James Lee Community Center and a Conversation and Book Signing with Tom Gjelten on Thursday December 10 from 7-8:30pm at the Arlington Central Library. All are welcome and we hope to see you at one or both free events!

LCNV’s Holiday Potluck Party on Tuesday evening is a chance for students to take part in a holiday tradition from this country, with fun for the whole family. There will be pictures with Santa, arts and crafts, and new this year – the opportunity to win Target gift cards as door prizes. There will also be a video game station with games like FIFA! The party is a nice continuation of class and further educational experience, as we are providing conversation starters to help students practice their English.

Tom GjeltenThen on Thursday, hear author and NPR correspondent Tom Gjelten discuss his latest book, A Nation of Nations: A Great American Immigration Story. The book describes the dramatic and compelling story of the transformation of America during the last fifty years, told through a handful of families in Fairfax County. With special guest, Delegate Mark Keam, whose story is featured in the book. One More Page Books will be there selling copies of A Nation of Nations, with 10% of all sales benefiting LCNV.

p.s. Holiday shopping on Amazon? Support LCNV by making purchases through AmazonSmile. Go to and use your same login. Select the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia to ensure that 0.5% of all eligible purchases that you make goes to LCNV. Thank you!

Current Volunteer Needs

November 18, 2015 at 6:42 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

We are pleased to announce the following new volunteer opportunities for instructors and non-instructors alike!

  • Classroom Tutoring

LCNV has recently launched a Classroom Tutoring Program! We are looking for tutors to provide the additional support and instruction to students enrolled in an LCNV class to help them succeed. At this time, we are offering this program to students attending classes at the James Lee Community Center. Details on needs for the remainder of the Fall 2015 semester are below.

Location: James Lee Community Center 2855 Annandale Road, Falls Church, VA 22042
Dates: November 24, 2015 – December 17, 2015
5:30pm – 6:30 pm – Tuesdays and Thursdays

If you have completed LCNV’s Instructor Training and are interested in being a part of this program between now and December, please sign up here. Contact Kate Chu with any questions.

This is an ongoing program targeting the classroom curriculum, and more opportunities will arise throughout the year. For an update on these activities next semester, look out for a posting on our website or email

  • Student Retention Assistants
    Are you interested in communicating with LCNV students to help them stay on track to achieve their English language and literacy goals? Student Retention Assistants will call students who have missed a couple of classes to find out why they missed class and to encourage attendance at future sessions. Through these informal phone calls, we anticipate Student Retention Assistants will be able to provide encouragement students may need as well as deliver student feedback to LCNV’s program. To serve in this capacity, volunteers will need to have verbal fluency in one of LCNV’s major languages (Spanish, Arabic, Korean, Vietnamese) and the ability to come to the office for 2-3 hours per week throughout the course of a semester. For more information or to express your interest, contact Ashley King, Student Admissions Manager.
  • Translators
    LCNV would like to create student recruitment materials in our learners’ key languages. This would include translating LCNV flyers, class schedules, and other outreach materials into the Arabic, Korean, Spanish, and Vietnamese. The ability to write at near-native or advanced fluency in one of these languages is essential. For more information or to express your interest, contact Ruba Marshood Afzal, Associate Director of Community Engagement.

Lastly, LCNV has just a few Holiday Gift Wrapping shifts remaining! If you would like to support LCNV by wrapping customer purchases for donations at nearby Barnes & Noble locations, visit this website to find out more and to sign up!

Integrated LCNV Instructor Training Yields Multiple Benefits

November 17, 2015 at 9:51 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

In September LCNV held its first integrated LCNV Instructor Training, designed to prepare teachers, tutors, and aides to work with LCNV learners in various capacities. LCNV is grateful to its dedicated training team volunteers who collaborated with staff to develop and deliver the new training modules under a tight timeframe. Now an LCNV-trained instructor can move seamlessly between roles and in the process offer our students more learning opportunities than ever before.

Historically the classroom, ESOL tutoring and BAL tutoring programs operated in three separate silos, each with its own unique training program. Volunteers prepared within one division were only qualified to deliver instruction in that division. Fewer volunteer opportunities resulted in waiting lists of students and volunteers. Unifying all academic programs under one umbrella around one core training program has opened up opportunities, and is expected to shorten the time that volunteers wait to work with students as well as reduce how long students wait for much needed services.

As a class aide, a volunteer can help individualize instruction by working with small groups under the teacher’s supervision or enable a struggling student to succeed by offering assistance during class. An aide can also provide continuity in the classroom by substituting for the teacher during an absence.

As a tutor, a volunteer can work with a classroom student before or after class to offer an academic boost or help a student who is unable to enroll in a class attain a personal learning goal such as passing the citizenship exam.

As an LCNV teacher, a volunteer with previous teaching experience can apply to teach or co-teach a beginning English class or work on English with either parents or children during a Family Learning class. More teaching opportunities will open up as we begin to expand our offerings in skills-based classes such as pronunciation and writing, and workforce-based language and literacy classes through our new track Destination Workforce™.

Merging training exposes all instructors to the same pedagogical concepts based on best practices in teaching English language learners. This new training program is research-driven while retaining the best elements from the past. Volunteers trained under the old program are encouraged to complete the new face-to-face program to refresh their skills.

Most important, the new reorganization of academic programs around an integrated, unified training allows a student to receive more intensive instruction through multiple avenues (classroom and tutorial); increases our instructor–to–student ratio; and results in greater academic gains over a shorter time period.

LCNV continues to expand our broad-based professional development program that begins at orientation and includes face-to-face and 24/7 online learning opportunities. More to come in future newsletters about this program as it develops.

Newsletter Training Diagram

Save the Dates for December

November 9, 2015 at 1:10 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

It was great to see everyone who came out for the Martina Boone Book Launch and Benefit celebration at Barnes and Noble last week! We appreciate your support. LCNV has some more exciting events coming up that we want to make sure you get on your calendar.

On Tuesday, December 8, you’re all invited to LCNV’s annual Holiday Potluck Party here at the James Lee Community Center in Falls Church from 6-8pm. As in years past it will include a delicious potluck dinner, photo opportunities with Santa, and a chance for students, volunteers, supporters and staff to get together at the end of a busy semester. More details to come.

Tom GjeltenThen on Thursday, December 10, LCNV presents a conversation and book signing with author and NPR correspondent Tom Gjelten. Gjelten will be discussing his new book, A Nation of Nations: A Great American Immigration Story, which describes the dramatic and compelling story of the transformation of America during the last fifty years, told through a handful of families in Fairfax County. One More Page Books will be selling copies of A Nation of Nations, with 10% of all sales benefiting LCNV. The event will take place from 7-8:30pm at the Arlington Central Library, and we hope to see you there!

p.s. After the Thanksgiving Holiday, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday comes Giving Tuesday! On December 1 please consider giving back to your community through #GivingTuesday.

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