National Book Fund: Yolanda's Journey
Posted by Jessica Gilmour on March 19, 2020 in categoryStudent Stories categoryWomen's Empowerment

For 25 years the National Book Fund® has provided materials for adult learners that have improved lives. Caroline House, Inc., of Bridgeport, Connecticut, a National Book Fund grant recipient, teaches English as a second language and life skills to women in the local community. With the help of the Step Forward books received through the National Book Fund grant, Caroline House was able to help 77 students achieve goals such as: reading to their children, obtaining citizenship, and increasing reading level. Not only did this help the individual students, but the resources gained through the National Book Fund grant also helped the program grow and improve by providing additional materials that allowed the program to onboard more students and tutors.

The students who benefited from the National Book Fund materials were among low-income and immigrant women. With the materials provided through the grant, Caroline House shared the benefits it saw for the students who learned through the Step Forward books:

Lessons about:

  • Making purchases
  • Making returns
  • Exchanging goods when shopping
  • Job interview questions and practice answers


Caroline House shared the story of one of their learners, Yolanda.

Yolanda is originally from Mexico. She and her husband have three daughters ages 2, 9, and 14. Yolanda attended school up to the ninth grade in Mexico. After moving to the U.S. and having her children, Yolanda knew that she needed to learn English to better manage responsibilities and challenges and to provide a better life for herself and her family.

In 2018, Yolanda enrolled in English as a second language (ESL) classes at Caroline House. Yolanda also enrolled her youngest daughter Adella in the preschool program. While Yolanda was learning English, Adella was building school readiness skills in a nurturing environment. Yolanda and Adella participated in weekly Mommy and Me family literacy activities with shared stories, art, music, and crafts. Yolanda, Adella, and other families were given books to read together at home.

In ESL classrooms, Yolanda and the other students each received a new Step Forward student book, thanks to the National Book Fund grant. Following the Step Forward program—using the student books with accompanying online teaching resources and supplemental printable and audible learning activities—Yolanda and her classmates moved forward through their lessons with the encouragement and guidance of their teachers. Students proudly improved their English vocabulary, reading, writing, and conversation skills.

Yolanda recently remarked on the progress that she and her classmates have made: “Last year, many of us couldn’t explain to a doctor how we were feeling. We didn’t know how to ask for what we needed at the store. Now we can communicate in English and talk to our children’s teachers. I am very proud of my classmates; they are a strong motivation to me.”

Thank you to ProLiteracy and the National Book Fund grant for helping Yolanda and other women receive the ESL program materials that have helped them to achieve skills and confidence and build better lives for themselves and their children.

To change lives like Yolanda’s and the learners of Caroline House, visit

Donate to the National Book Fund


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