When doing RA, one of the hardest groups to serve are adults who are either learning English as a second language, or native speakers with low literacy skills. People who are new to reading are often intimidated by libraries, so If you are lucky enough to actually get asked about what to read from one of these adults, you want to be prepared with some good go-to choices! Complicating matters is the lack of authors who write adult-themed books in a high-interest/low-vocabulary style. Luckily, in recent years several publishers have started filling the gaps in this area, notably Good Reads (Grass Roots Press), Quick Reads (Orion), Rapid Reads (Orca) and Oxford Bookworms. Often the books are not just scaled-back versions of popular works, but original fiction and non-fiction written by well known authors specifically for this target audience.
While these books can be expensive relative to other paperbacks, they are still an affordable way to reach a population that is traditionally underserved by public libraries. In the Tri-Cities, the Port Moody Public Library, Coquitlam Public Library, and Terry Fox Library (FVRL) are each running a monthly book group for adult learners, with book sets shared between the three library systems. These are some of the titles we’ve found particularly stimulating for discussion with our participants:
Easy Money by Gail Vaz-Oxlade. You wouldn’t usually think of finance and budgeting as a fun topic of conversation, but this one surprised us. Our ESL participants were especially interested in talking about how Canadian banks work, credit cards, etc., and Vaz-Oxlade’s perspective as an immigrant to Canada herself is highly relatable. Money is universal!
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery. Available in abridged form in a couple of different reading levels and formats, this title is great for groups with varying reading abilities. It also serves as an introduction to Canadian culture and history, with an easy tie-in to movie and tv versions.
Incidentally, sometimes just mixing these titles into a display, especially in summer when people are looking for a “quick read”, they often get picked up by readers of all levels.