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Highlighting the Student Population

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Responsive programming helps diverse students form connections, build skills, and reach goals. The Wagners founded Madison Literacy Council to provide free basic literacy education to adults. They adopted Laubach’s step-by-step approach, which was developed specifically for adult learners who have little or no reading skills. In the early years, the numbers of native English language speakers and English as a Second Language (ESL) students were roughly equal.

Soon, the number of ESL students far outpaced native English speakers, as refugees and other immigrants came to Madison Literacy Council for help with English skills like reading and writing. Early groups of ESL students included Hmong and other refugees from Southeast Asia, and Cuban refugees resettling in Dane County. Over the years, students have included Bhutanese, Syrian, Congolese, Venezuelan, Colombian, Nicaraguan, Haitian, Central African, and, most recently, Afghan and Ukrainian refugees, among others. Literacy Network now regularly serves students 4from close to 90 different countries each year who speak more than 60 different languages.

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