Annual Assembly and Visions 2020 Available Online!

2020 has changed a lot about our lives, but it didn’t stop the Annual Student and Tutor Appreciation event hosted by the Hillsborough Literacy Council 

Despite the slowdown to our services that Covid-19 has caused, we were able to put together a virtual Annual Appreciation Assembly on September 26, 2020. Although we weren’t able to meet face to face, we still had a great time listening to our guest speaker, Csaba Osvath, who did perhaps the best presentation for the online format we could have hoped for. It focused on the world of online game play and its intersection with language and literacy. I highly recommend that all of you check out what Csaba had to say, and the beautiful way in which it was presented. In fact, watch the whole assembly here.  

You’ll notice that as always, News Channel 8’s Rod Carter was our MC, and he did a wonderful job! You just can’t ask for better friends. 

Every year, we release the new edition of Visions during the assembly. This year is no exception. You can find Visions 2020 on our website, or at this link. Do to the interruption in our services, we did not have as much time to solicit as many new writings as we normally would, but we did combine the new writings we received with some from previous years to make a full edition. We also included some tips and ideas on how to incorporate using those writings in a tutoring session or two. We hope you all enjoy the wonderful stories you will find. 

We look forward to planning next year’s event and to be working with all of our students and tutors in whatever ways we can. Until then, please enjoy the Annual Assembly and Visions 2020 digitally and continue to stay healthy until we see each other again. 

Use the HLC’s Online Visions Archive to Support Your Learners

Did you know that tutors have access to a huge pool of HLC student writing? And, there are plenty of ways to use it to support ABE or ESOL students at any levels, and lots of other benefits, too. Keep the conversation going with Visions! 

Our archive has decades of material.  Taking a look at more of our students’ writing gives everyone a wider appreciation for the range of their abilities, and the diversity of people we serve.  For tutors, ESOL or ABE students, reading Visions is a memorable experience that directly relates to the community around us. 

Tutors often look for authentic texts and low-level readings to explore with their learners. Why not use the more personalized material generated by our community members?  Longer or shorter, poetry or prose, these pieces are written by students who are closer to the level of other students, and with life experiences that they may have in common with the learners you are helping.  

Give adult learners practice with a range of strategies by using our Visions archive. We suggest: 

  • pre-reading activities, such as discussing a topic similar to the one found in the text  
  • retelling the story, or summarizing the text 
  • identifying main ideas and supporting details  
  • asking or answering open-ended questions  
  • skimming and scanning for certain facts  
  • using notes and graphic organizers,  
  • and applying a text to one’s own life 

To get you started, we made a lesson plan focusing on adjective usage, with suggestions for leveling up or down. Access it here, and adapt it to your student, situation, and needs.  Let us know how it goes! 

Having read this post, do you have any other ideas for using Visions?  Let us know! There are many more possibilities we’ll share to support development of critical thinking, fluency, recognition, comprehension, vocabulary development, motivation, reflection, and more. 

Access our Visions archive here. 

Unite For Literacy: Free Books and Multi-Language Immersion

HLC’s Melissa Nye made this video to review the website, The site is a great literacy resource for multilingual families, or those families who would like to reinforce language learning with young children. Melissa shows you what kinds of titles the site offers, and some functions of the site that will be of most interest to bilingual families. Finally, Melissa gives a few tips on how to use the resources to promote literacy. 

Learn to Read a Foreign Language


During this time of seclusion many people will turn to one of their bucket list items to pass the time: to learn a new language! This list of resources aims to help the independent learner acquire the ability to read a foreign language. Getting a good reading knowledge of a language is a great way to be set up to move forward with speaking a language.

The library can help! It is recommended to start with the Mango app and begin to learn the basics of your language of choice. Then, add to your effort by using one of the vocabulary learning tools below, while also venturing into reading some current events from one of the news sources.

Please let me know how your journey is going in the comments!

Language Learning Resources

  • Mango-This is a multimedia language learning app that is free to use with your library card. It walks you through different conversational scenarios, uses online text with color coding for grammar comparison, offers a wide variety of languages, and is lots of fun to boot. A good way to learn about a foreign language and culture. Also available as a phone app.
  • is an organization that offers free language lessons delivered through audio files.

Grammar Basics In English

To help the independent language learner decode texts in a foreign language, it is a good idea to be brush up on a few grammar basics for when you inevitably compare the structure of your target language with English.

  • Grammarly Blog-This is a good explanation of the basics of English Grammar. All languages share some common grammar aspects, for example, they all have nouns and verbs. Being aware of these terms will help you decode a new language. As a bonus, this page describes the “subjunctive mood.” The subjunctive is very rare in English, but much more common in Spanish and Portuguese, for example, so it is a good term to know.
  • Word order in English statements – Sentence Structure– This is a video geared toward people learning English, but it is a good video to watch to familiarize yourself with the idea of word order in language. Other languages have different word orders than English. This video is very comprehensive with English word order, which will help prepare you to look for differences of word order in the language you are learning.
  • Learning Express-To really go in depth with your grammar knowledge, log onto Learning Express with your library card number. Go to the Adult Core Skills section and you will find “Improve your writing, speaking, and grammar.” You will need to make a free account to download free grammar e-books, but the process is quick and easy. Not only will you get a great grip on English grammar to help you learn to read a foreign language, but your writing in English will get a lot better, too!

Resources For Foreign Grammar

It is not essential to memorize grammar rules to learn a language. However, understanding grammar rules will help you de-code to the texts you are seeing on the page. Often times you will see words you recognize and know the meaning of in your target language, and yet, you have trouble understanding the overall sentence’s meaning. That is when understanding grammatical rules will help.

Note: If you come across a phrase in your new language that doesn’t make sense any way you look at it, you might be dealing with an idiom! For more on idioms, browse these titles in the HCPLC Catalog.

  • Here’s a video to show you how to find grammar books and eBooks at the library.
  • YouTube-There are thousands of videos on YouTube about the grammar of whichever language you like. Here is one of my favorites about Dutch, as an example. Notice how he says he himself didn’t really know much about his own language’s grammar and had to learn it to make the video. Then watch how quickly it becomes rather complicated!  It just shows how tricky grammar can be, and how easily it can turn into a rabbit hole. So, don’t stress it, just consult it when you’re stuck.

Vocabulary, Vocabulary, Vocabulary

One thing you should definitely do to improve the speed of learning a language is to memorize vocabulary. With these tools and tips, this part of the job should be much easier. They will provide you with targeted lists of words to commit to memory, as well as allow you to add your own words to the learning software.

  • Root words, and word forms
    • is one of my favorites that I have been using for years. The odd spelling of the website’s name comes from the word meme, because you can make memes or use memes from the community to help you remember vocabulary. The software presents you with vocabulary, and then quizzes you in a variety of ways to help you remember. This includes spelling! And the final benefit is that you can either select vocabulary lists made by the community or start your own list.
    • Ankiapp-This popular (and free!) app is available for Windows or Apple Desktop, or Android or iPhone. You can get pre-created flashcard decks, or customize and make your own, and see your progress after each study session.  Study sessions are created based on your progress with each flashcard and use spaced-interval theories to help your brain retain the knowledge.
  • Dictionaries (monolingual and translate)
  • Memorization tips
    • For interest, here is a study comparing the effectiveness of different vocabulary learning strategies among Chinese students learning English.

Authentic Sources

Now, find a text and start to explore. If you are hoping to learn a language that uses the same alphabet as we do in English, you’ll be off to a fast start. If you need to learn a new alphabet, it may require extra effort. If you’d like help finding sources on other alphabets, you can always use the Ask a Librarian Service. Here are some examples: Greek, Cyrillic (Russian), Korean

In many cases, news articles are good sources to use because they cover topics that one can easily read about in English news sources. News sources are not generally written at an advanced level, so you won’t be dealing with a lot of metaphorical language or specialist terminology. Always ask yourself after you read, “What was this reading about?” If you can answer that, then you’re on your way.

  • Youth literature-The library has a lot of youth literature in Spanish. If you are looking for something else, you may need to search the web. If you just want to see some excerpts, Google Books is there for you with international bestsellers of young adult literature, like this example of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in Italian.
  • News organizations
    • BBC-The BBC offers news in a wide variety of languages. Scroll to the bottom of the page to read and watch news stories from around the world. Also, they offer a very wide variety of archived language courses.
  • Parallel texts
    • is an interesting website that has classic stories and novels that can be read in a variety of languages, and you can switch over to English to compare each paragraph. The site will also read you each sentence in the target language.
    • Here is a sample from the library’s catalog.
  • Music
    • The library offers a variety of CDs of music from around the world. Here’s an example search for Portuguese.
    • YouTube, of course. Usually a search for “music” and a country or language does the trick.

Other Sources

General Reading Tips and Tricks

  • Try to read on topics with which you are already familiar.
  • Avoid advanced fiction in the beginning, stick with news and simple texts.
  • Skim read over a new text first, look for new vocabulary.
  • Skim read for main idea, then read again for detail.
  • Use context clues to learn new vocabulary. Here’s a great page that shows all of the ways to do this. It’s for younger readers, but the techniques are the same for language learners.

Good luck! Bonne chance! ¡Buena suerte! 祝你好運! Powodzenia!

Have you checked out our easy to read graphic novels?

Did you know that the Literacy Department purchased a variety of graphic novels that are adapted from classic works of literature? The following video introduces tutors to these resources, shows tutors how to locate them, and gives tutors advice on how to use them.