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International Conference On Adult Immigrant Literacy

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City College of San Francisco (CCSF) and San Francisco State University (SFSU) will co-host an international conference for teachers, researchers, and policymakers working to promote quality learning environments for adult immigrant learners with limited literacy or formal schooling.

The LESLLA 2013 Symposium: Expanding Emergent Literacy Practices will be held at the Mission Campus of CCSF in San Francisco (August 7- 9th) and will bring together researchers and teachers from many countries throughout Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Americas. The conference is the only one in the country to focus on adult immigrant learners with low literacy and participants will explore new understandings of adult second-language and literacy development through a mix of theoretical and practice-based presentations.

LESLLA (Low Educated Second Language and Literacy Acquisition) for Adults is an international forum of researchers and teachers who study the development of second language skills by adult immigrants and refugees with little or no schooling in the home country, low levels of literacy in the native language, and limited proficiency in the language of the new country. LESLLA’s goal is to share research and information that will guide further studies, and to influence educational policy development in all those countries where immigrants settle and are likely to need educational support.

Dr. Whiteside said, “LESLLA is the only group that meets annually to consider interdisciplinary research on adult immigrants with little or no formal schooling. These students are largely ignored in discussions of academic ‘success.’ Nearly all research has focused on academic learners.”


Dr. Robin Waterman, Executive Director of La Conexion Comunitaria de Aurora (Aurora Community Connection), will open the conference with a plenary session on her literacy work with impoverished women in El Salvador who had little to no formal education.

Nigerian-American artist Victor Ekpuk will discuss “Using Nsibidi, a traditional script from southwestern Nigeria”. This artist’s visual vocabulary is derived from an age-old communication system of the Ekpe secret society in Nigeria, where graphic symbols together with mime and placement of objects are used to convey ideas. “Inspired by these ancient writings, forms in my works are reduced to basic essence, resulting in new symbols or codes in script-like drawings that are used to express contemporary experiences.”

Dr. Norma Guillard, a social psychologist and activist from Santiago de Cuba, was one of the first Cuban women of her generation to call herself a feminist. Dr. Guillard joined the 1961 Cuban Literacy Campaign (the Campaign) when she was 15 years old. She will speak about this inspiring experience, and introduce the screening of a documentary film, “Maestra,” which celebrates the life-transforming stories of Cuban women literacy workers.

Dr. Stephen Reder, Professor and Chairman of the Department of Applied Linguistics at Portland State University, is a leader in the field of adult literacy. He will close the symposium with reflections on “Researching emergent literacy practices: From cognitivist to social perspectives.” In this presentation he will share his thoughts about new literacy practices that develop as cultures come into contact, and how they engage immigrants with little formal education or literacy in their native language.

For more information about LESLLA, click HERE  


Visit KQED Resources for ESL Educators on Immigration 

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