The Books Are Free!

2020 n14

September is #NationalLiteracyMonth!

Where is the one place you can—for free—find books:

  • to help your children with math,

  • to learn how to cook something new,

  • to improve your English skills,

  • and to entertain your children for a few minutes?

“It’s the library, of course,” you say. But what if you had never seen a library?

The American culture class at a local apartment complex took a field trip to Knox County Library's Bearden Branch. Five students plus a translator enjoyed a tour by a very patient librarian who also explained her job. She answered many questions, and their only challenge was in heeding the expectation to whisper.

translator completing her library application

After the tour, all five women and the translator completed the one-page application and received brand new library cards. When their teacher said, “Now go pick out a book,” they were hesitant. They didn’t realize they could immediately take a book…or three!

Then one student asked the question on all their minds: “How much does it cost?” They were delighted to learn that it’s free!

Their teacher pointed them to the children’s section, where they might find books to practice English or to help their own children learn to read English. When one student found the books on tape, everyone had to get one. They “cleaned out” that section because they could listen as they followed along in the printed book.

explaining the books on tape

The next time the class met, several students gave “book reports” about the books they had checked out, and three women who hadn’t gone on the field trip heard all about it from the others. They remembered every detail! One student asked, “When do you take me back?” The teacher told her she could go on her own and take her family. Soon, that family had a Saturday-morning ritual of going to the library, then reading the books together.


You can be an encourager in an ESL or culture class (like the tall woman in the photo here) and introduce the students to all the “perks” of living in metro Knoxville--including our awesome libraries. You, your family, or your small group can instead partner with one family to help them understand American systems and start to feel like Knoxville is home. If that sounds “right up your alley,” start your volunteer application today!

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