American Dream Literacy Initiative: About

Since 2008, 204 libraries in Dollar General communities have initiated or expanded literacy services for adult English language learners. The grants allow libraries to augment their print and digital English as a second language (ESL) collections; increase computer access and training; provide job training; hold English language learning (ELL), general educational development (GED) and citizenship classes; and raise the visibility of services for immigrant populations.

American Dream libraries build replicable programs, develop coalition-building strategies, and provide annotated lists of vetted resources for libraries across the country. ALA shares the libraries’ successes and strategies through our website, on webinars, and at state, regional, and national conferences. Through library-delivered services and community partnerships, the program serves thousands of English language learners and their families.

From the outset, the program has had a goal of developing tools and resources for libraries and library staff to provide effective literacy services to adult English language learners in their communities and across the country. Libraries are among America’s most democratic institutions — places of equitable access to education, information, and lifelong learning that strengthen communities and help create a more literate and just society. Libraries are also among the first institutions immigrants turn to for help with accessing and using technology and with learning how to read and write in English.

The American Dream Literacy Initiative is made possible through the generous support of the Dollar General Literacy Foundation. It is administered by ALA’s Public Programs Office and Office for Diversity, Literacy and Outreach Services.


Collection Development

Through seven rounds of the American Dream initiative, grantee libraries have contributed to a comprehensive collection of print and digital resources for adult English language learners. These resources are available as a searchable database through LibraryThing. A subset of this collection is also available as an annotated list that can be downloaded.

Outreach Toolkit

Engaging Multilingual Communities and English Language Learners in U.S. Libraries, a toolkit on serving English language learners at your library, created by ALA’s Office for Diversity, Literacy and Outreach Services, and Public Programs Office.

Digital Supplements

Reports on previous rounds of the American Dream program are available as digital supplements to American Libraries magazine:

Other Resources

10-year reportOur Impact

Since its inception, the American Dream Literacy Initiative has helped libraries transform communities across the United States.

You can learn more about what has accomplished over the past ten years in the American Dream Literacy Initiative 10-year Retrospective Report. This report celebrates the many ways that American Dream libraries have transformed lives, strengthened their communities, and advocated tirelessly for lifelong learning. Look inside for key findings from a multi-year impact study, profiles of grantee libraries, and best practices from across the field.

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Text reads: "These non-traditional students are so eager to learn and are extremely appreciative of the opportunity this class affords them. The library is now a place where they can meet to learn, share, and feel respected in their community. It has been a privilege to be a part of this process." - Fairfax County Public Library, Virginia

Below, you'll hear from some of the American Dream libraries about how this grant has brought new patrons to the library, allowed libraries to expand their programming, and provided additional resources for adult learners. 

Text reads: "Watching our program grow and seeing so many new people come to the library has definitely been our greatest accomplishment. Having resources available to people who truly need them is the cornerstone of librarianship and is embedded in our mission and the work we do." - Maplewood Memorial Library, New Jersey

The American Dream Literacy Initiative is made possible through the generous support of the Dollar General Literacy Foundation.