Adult ESL Materials

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In 1990, census data indicated that 7.9% of the population of the U.S. was composed of immigrants. The 2000 census revealed that the proportion had risen to 11.1%. In 2010, it was 12.5%. The latest estimate, for 2015, indicates the percentage is 13.5%. These figures are for legal immigrants only.

It is clear that a key trend in our demographics will very likely continue: an increasing proportion of immigrants in our national makeup. As a result, communities across the United States are faced with widespread numbers of adults who need and want to become English speakers. Ever-greater pressures are being placed on communities to offer ESL learning opportunities to immigrants so that these new Americans can better integrate into American culture and the workplace.

Libraries are doing more to respond to these needs, taking on new responsibilities as they provide classes, programs, tutoring spaces, and materials. Clearly, libraries view themselves as active contributors to vital, well-informed communities that are information literate and proficient in the English language. In a time of shrinking budgets and competing demands for limited resources, libraries are playing a key role by helping newcomers whose native language is not English integrate into American culture.

While online instruction, community classes, special programs, and digital resources have become widely available, the printed book remains a highly relevant tool. Thankfully, today’s ESL textbooks, workbooks, and styles of instruction have improved since my early days in librarianship: covers are more attractive, text is more relevant, illustrations have become more appealing, and the variety of print resources to choose from has greatly improved. Printed books continue to provide ESL learners with portability, accessibility, and the ability to refer to audio files and web pages for further practice. Furthermore, web instruction is enhanced by tying lessons and practice exercises back to specific book titles.

Once your library has recognized the need to provide ESL materials for patrons, how do you select appropriate titles? While some factors in choosing ESL titles are similar to selection issues in general, others are specific to ESL materials. Here are some questions to consider:

  1. How recently was the material published?

  2. Is the binding suitable for library use?

  3. What are the qualifications of the author(s)?

  4. What reputation does the publisher have when it comes to its ESL publications? What about its publications overall?

  5. Does the material teach American English or British English?

  6. Are the contents interesting and relevant to the everyday lives of typical ESL adults? (New culture, finding employment, making friends, understanding customs, writing effectively, as well as speaking)

  7. Are the illustrations appealing to adult ESL learners? Do they depict current situations and clothing styles?

  8. What is the material’s target age range?

  9. Are the situations and illustrations age-appropriate for the target audience?

  10. Is the wording friendly, formal, academic, or accessible?

  11. In light of the fact that traditional library reviewing tools don’t generally cover ESL titles, what do ESL teachers and professional ESL journals and websites have to say about the book or series? What comments do ESL students have?

  12. Are links to online practice exercises, videos, answer keys, or other supportive materials offered?

  13. Do audio or video discs come with the material?

Brodart has worked extensively with customers seeking ESL materials, and we have compiled print resources available for purchase into two lists: Adult ESL and Adult ESL Program Sets. Our librarian experts are also ready, if needed, to assist in customized selection recommendations that fit your needs.

Adult ESL

Adult ESL Program Sets (includes workbooks)