Making Connections: Book Discussions for Adult Learners

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by Susan Bartlett, Connections Program Coordinator

What gives us hope? What experiences do we have in common: of growing up, of moving to a new country, of learning? What can literature teach us about the world, about ourselves? This March, students in Kate Deschenes’ Connections adult literacy group in ESOL classes at Nashua Adult Learning reflected on these themes while reading books provided by New Hampshire Humanities through ConnectionsThe Lotus Seed by Sherry Garland, My People by Langston Hughes and When I Was Young in the Mountains by Cynthia Rylant are high-quality illustrated books, intended for children but ideal for adult learners, that quickly get to the heart of human experience. In order to help students reflect on the readings, Connections discussion facilitator Linda Graham offered writing prompts.  

Student Ana Rodriguez wrote this response:

“I am… a positive person. I see life with love because life is wonderful; each day you can make a decision to change your life forever.

I feel… I am very happy because life is giving me the opportunity to help other people to change the negativity in their lives; sometimes one word can change each of our lives.

When I was young… I did not have a mother or a father – both died. But I had dreams in my heart. I have always liked to study. 

My big dream is to finish high school and University with excellent qualifications.

I wish… to be an interpreter. I am blessed and fortunate because I study in an excellent school, where everyone is treated as an important person. We are the world, we are one big family.

Someday I will… be a good interpreter! When we are learning, we are making ourselves better persons and we have better lives.”

Literature opens new worlds for students, stimulates thinking and discussion, builds vocabulary, and creates a new sense of belonging. Kate Deschenes reflects on what Connections brings to her classes: 

“The students love the books and discussions, they open up and talk about themselves, their experiences, their memories and their feelings and they discover new things about each other. (English language) students often feel lonely and afraid when they first arrive and the school becomes the first new community in the United States where they feel safe and happy.” 

Connections is all about building communities of people who love to read and learn and discuss books. Each year, we reach more than 500 adult students in New Hampshire, partnering with 30 schools and organizations offering adult education including ESOL classes, programs for incarcerated parents, and classes for adults with developmental disabilities. 

For more information on Connections, contact Susan Bartlett.