Library brings back English learning programs, seeks volunteers

FILE: Photo by Rosemary Hemenway

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The Winters Community Library had to shelve many of its public programs during the pandemic. With most of the COVID restrictions lifted, the library is bringing back many of its resources and programs that bolster opportunities for Winters residents.

For a year and a half, Ashleigh Torres has not only been a librarian in Winters but a key facilitator of the library’s offerings to the community. Although dismayed at the pandemic-caused hiatus of the library’s programs, she’s thrilled the community will be able to benefit from them once again.

“We’re bringing everything back. Storytime is back inside, and we also have our movie program starting back up where we show a movie every month in the community room,” said Torres. “We also have our bigger programs we still did when we were open but not doing in-person programs. We’re doing them in person now, and we’re also sending some supplies home. We just did a Dia De Los Muertos event and are going to be doing a gingerbread house extravaganza too.”

Amongst the variety of programs the library offers, some of the most impactful are English learning programs. Which — in a town like Winters whose Spanish-speaking community is over 50 percent of the population — can make a world of difference in the lives of those who participate in them.

“Winters has been a big source for English language programs. They started out doing English as a Second Language (ESL) classes a couple years ago at the Esparto branch, and they had so many people going to Esparto from Winters, it was decided these classes needed to be brought to Winters. We tried to do it virtually during the pandemic, but everyone was Zoomed out. So, we have those back in person now with another course being offered closer to the summer,” said Torres. “We’re able to do that through a grant that the library received. We also have a couple of partner programs like our English Conversation Groups we host at the library. Those were on a little bit of a pause because of the pandemic, but we have Revalee Hempkin, who’s with (Winters) Friends of the Library and she’s been a huge advocate for our English conversation group and citizenship programming.”

Not only does Hempkin spearhead the English conversation group, she works with different patrons in citizenship preparation. Meanwhile, Torres bolsters the citizenship services by keeping the library’s Citizenship Corner up to date with new information and materials as citizenship processes change regularly. The

Citizenship Corner itself is teeming with information and resources for anyone who wants to learn how to start the process of getting a green card or citizenship.

“We have our ESL courses, English conversation group and then our citizenship test prep. Those go hand-in-hand and any part of the process someone is in we want to tell them, ‘Hey, here’s this awesome program you can join in, and here’s all the resources we have to offer you,’” said Torres. “It’s been really cool because we have some people that take the ESL course, get a little more advanced in their English skills and then they join the English conversation group. We’ve had some people that have benefitted so much from the ESL course, they come back to help and volunteer and share their expertise with other students.”

As the library strives to help the community, the community can help as library staff is currently looking for volunteers to help in the English conversation group before the program can restart. The only requisite is being patient and available once a week to participate in these conversations so the English learners can hone their craft.

Those who are interested or need more information can visit the library (708 Railroad Ave.) and talk to Torres in person, call the library at 530-795-4955 or visit its website at

A full listing of current library events and programs is available on a monthly calendar at the library and is posted on the Yolo County Library website’s events tab (by filtering the “category” for Winters).

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