American Dream Starts @ your library grant allows California library system to expand ESL classes

For Immediate Release
Tue, 09/30/2014


Steve Zalusky

Manager of Communications

Public Information Office


CHICAGO –  Through an American Dream Starts @ your library grant awarded by the Dollar General Literacy Foundation to the American Library Association, the Riverside County (Calif.) Library System has been able to expand ESL classes for adult learners.

In this countywide program, volunteers are working with one-on-one tutoring to help individuals learn to read and write.

In Riverside County, which is spread over 7,200 square miles, it is estimated that there are over 50,000 people in Riverside County who are eligible for citizenship. However, there are several barriers in their way. A major barrier to citizenship is being able to speak, read and write English in order to take the Citizenship Exam.

It is a community-based program that changes not only improves students’ lives, but also those of their families.

“The program has not just made a difference in my life, but it’s made a difference in a bunch of my learners’ lives,” said Rolando Olivo, an ESL instructor who has been with the adult literacy program for 12 years.

He said the program allows his students to learn how to speak English in public, which enables them to find jobs. It also helps them gain citizenship, as well as help their children with homework.

It has also enabled the teachers to achieve their dreams.

Melody Earickson, literacy site supervisor at Riverside County, who once taught ESL classes at Long Beach State College, said the library helped her fulfill her dream of once again teaching people to speak English.

“I feel almost, if I was meant to do anything in this world, it was helping people with learning to speak English.”

She said, “Our big motto is ‘English is easy,’ because, I think, if you can convince a student that it’s not difficult, you have passed the major hurdle.”

She said the grant has made it possible for extra classes serving more people and provided the library with books to serve those students.

One of the students, Laura Serrano, a mother of two children whose first language is Spanish, said learning is English is important in order to get a good job.

“This program is very good for me, because it’s free, it’s close to my house, I have very good teachers,” she said.

“I would like that the program continue forever,” said ESL student Modesto Macedo.

Olivo said the classes have had an impact on the library itself, because learners have turned into library users, often coming in on a daily basis. Among other things, they use the computers to look up jobs.

“It’s a pride in ownership for them to have a library card,” he said, adding that without the support of Dollar General and the American Dream Starts @ your library grant, “We wouldn’t have this opportunity to keep on providing as much services as we can in Riverside county.”

For more on the Riverside program, view this video by visiting

About the ALA

The American Library Association is the oldest and largest library association in the world, with more than 57,000 members. Its mission is to promote the highest quality library and information services and public access to information.

About Dollar General Literacy Foundation

The Dollar General Literacy Foundation was established in 1993 in honor of Dollar General’s co-founder, J.L. Turner, who was functionally illiterate with only a third grade education. He was a farmer’s son who dropped out of school when his father was killed in an accident. With determination and hard work, he began what has now become a successful company. We understand sometimes life circumstances prevent individuals from learning to read or graduating from high school, but it’s never too late to learn. Through funding initiatives, we are committed to helping individuals of all ages learn to read, prepare for their high school equivalency or learn English. To learn more about the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, please visit

About Dollar General Stores

Dollar General Corporation has been delivering value to shoppers for 75 years. Dollar General helps shoppers Save time. Save money. Every day!® by offering products that are frequently used and replenished, such as food, snacks, health and beauty aids, cleaning supplies, basic apparel, house wares and seasonal items at low everyday prices in convenient neighborhood locations. With more than 11,500 stores in 40 states, Dollar General has more retail locations than any retailer in America. In addition to high quality private brands, Dollar General sells products from America’s most-trusted manufacturers such as Clorox, Energizer, Procter & Gamble, Hanes, Coca-Cola, Mars, Unilever, Nestle, Kimberly-Clark, Kellogg’s, General Mills, and PepsiCo. For more information on Dollar General, please visit