PLS Literacy Graduate YolandaHundreds of people each year benefit from the Pioneer Library System’s Adult Literacy Services program. The library offers tutoring for adults wanting to learn reading or to improve their reading.

Here is the story of Yolanda

Looking for help

Yolanda came to the U.S. from Chihuahua, Mexico. She married her husband just before he was deployed to Iraq and Yolanda was left living with family in Oklahoma City. Not long after her husband's deployment, Yolanda found out she was pregnant.

The story was just starting.

Her son had been diagnosed on the autism spectrum, but due to the language barrier, Yolanda felt she was not able to actively work with the schools to best meet her son’s needs. So she turned to the library to look for help and received an English Language Tutor, named Cap, in her hometown.

Little by little, word by word, lesson by lesson, the language came to Yolanda - and, collaboration with her son’s school helped her son. She eventually was able to apply for U.S. citizenship, which she received in an official proclamation in late 2013.

Lending a hand

Yolanda and her tutor CapYolanda’s story has the chance to be retold in many other families thanks to an expansion of literacy services aimed directly at helping English language learners on the path to U.S. citizenship.

The Oklahoma Department of Libraries is offering an immigration and citizenship services program funded through the Library Services Technology Act (LSTA) Grants to States from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

The grant for PLS Literacy Services is for $15,000 and is split three ways between Cleveland, McClain, and Pottawatomie counties. It will be used to purchase citizenship study materials from the publisher New Readers Press.

Citizenship materials are available in five hometown libraries (Norman Central, Moore, SOKC, Shawnee, and Purcell) with a variety of information about what libraries are offering for citizenship help as well as general information sheets on first or next steps in seeking U.S. citizenship.

PLS trains tutors interested in working with those wanting to gain U.S. citizenship.  The tutors prepare students by helping them improve their English skills and their proficiency in reading, writing and speaking. The process is individualized to meet the student’s needs.

A new life

“It’s extremely satisfying to see Yolanda come through everything she has come through,” her tutor says. “I know it felt good for her and it felt good for us.”

And the story comes full circle. Yolanda herself is now one of the newest volunteer tutors for PLS, and her first student is a lady that Cap has been tutoring for several months.

“For me, it changed my life, and I wanted to pass this on to others.”