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The Camden County Freeholder Board is sponsoring free adult reading classes at the Nilsa I. Cruz-Perez Branch of the Camden County Library System.
“This is an extraordinary opportunity for residents of who are eager to learn,” said Freeholder Ian Leonard, liaison to the Camden County Library System. “More than 40 percent of Camden City’s 77,000 residents are living in poverty which can be directly attributed to their lack of education. The Freeholder Board is committed to seeing this change in our community, and believes we must rise to the challenge of improving literacy for our residents.”
The Camden County Library System has identified two experienced teachers who have worked in the Camden school system and have experience with English as a second language (ESL) education to coordinate the program. These educators will teach reading to both English speaking and non-native English speaking (ESL) adults in small groups weekday evenings and on Saturdays.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 42.6 percent of Camden residents are living in poverty and out of that total 57 percent are children. This is why creating a cohesive, family environment for learning is critical and empowering for families to ascertain basic skills for future employment opportunities.
“The Camden County Library System’s goal is to take a holistic family approach to literacy by offering story times and other activities for children of the participants, giving books to the children to take home and offering guidance to caregivers regarding early childhood literacy,” Leonard said. “It’s clear that children being part of this program should enhance attendance and provide extra educational time for them outside of a school setting.”
Illiteracy is not a problem that only poor countries face. Reasons why illiteracy exists are often not limited to a lack of educational resources, but include social and cultural triggers that prevent vulnerable people from acquiring indispensable life skills. According to the U.S. Department of Education and the National Institute of Literacy, 32 million adults in the United States cannot read.
“It is imperative that anyone who wants to learn how to read be given the opportunity and help to do so,” Leonard said. “This service is invaluable and can be a matter of raising the standard of living for residents providing them a lighthouse into new opportunities.”
Residents lacking functional English literacy skills are often impeded in their ability to get jobs, assist their children in school and become more active members of their community.
“One of our goals is to make positive changes in the communities we serve through programs like these free reading classes at the Cruz-Perez Downtown Branch,” said Linda Devlin, Director of the Camden County Library System. “Our library is committed to improving literacy skills and providing residents with opportunities to advance their education.”
One of the teachers participating in the program, Nidza Resto-Bruno, is excited to begin working with the community.
“Teaching is my mission and helping people to excel and achieve their dreams through education is the greatest reward I could get. The reading program at Nilsa I. Cruz Perez library gives me the opportunity to serve the community by doing what I like, teach,” Resto-Bruno said.
For more information on the program, prospective students may visit the branch located at 301 North 5th Street in Camden on the Rutgers-Camden campus (directions), or call the branch at (856) 225-6807.