The Central Library of Rochester & Monroe County is serving multigenerational and multicultural audiences as diverse as the library’s population base.
ESL Families and Their Children
Rochester is home to refugees from many countries, including Burma, Nepal and Somalia. Many residents do not participate in the formal financial sector. Project Principal Jennifer Byrnes described some of the cultural challenges: “They pay their rent in cash and fail to get receipts for payments, opening them up to exploitation by predatory landlords. They cash their checks at the corner store, which takes a 10% fee. Presently 99% of neighborhood residents qualify for the free lunch program at school, and over 67% of area adults read at or below 5th grade level. We want to give them the tools they need to understand basic money management such as banking, credit, and savings.”
The English-as-a-second-language (ESL) classes meet six days a week. One day is devoted to financial literacy concepts to improve vocabulary and to include money topics for small-group discussion. Classes are co-taught by the ESL teacher and the outreach coordinator at the Consumer Credit Counseling Services of Rochester.
Family Literacy Kits and Program in a Box
The Rochester project also engages English-speaking children and adults with fun and practical family activities. Library staff design creative, ready-made “programs-in-a box,” which families can check out to continue the money conversations at home. Teachers, caregivers and scout leaders can also use a Family Guide that features resources for starting a conversation with kids about basic financial concepts, such as spending, saving, and budgeting. The kits are appropriate for pre-K to 6th grade children and are available at every public library in the county.
• “Our library’s inclusive approach to financial literacy supports disparate populations and focuses on a common goal: helping families learn how to manage money from a trusted community resource,” said Byrnes.
• Byrnes commented, “Having the family kits inspires children’s librarians to create their own financial literacy programs, and the ‘program-in-a-box’ serves those who are less comfortable with the content or have time constraints that prevent original programming. The family kits have also been used in our ESL classes to make learning about money a hands-on activity.”
• Chad Rieflin, an educator with the Consumer Credit Counseling Services of Rochester, noted “Financial literacy for the refugee community is crucial. Unlike traditional immigrants, many of these people have spent their entire lives in camps where there is no way to earn, save or spend money. They have a much larger learning curve than other new Americans.”