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Families graduate from Queens Public Library program

The Queens Public Library believes the family that learns together grows together.

Five years ago organization began a program that taught educated immigrant parents and their children English language skills, art and more. From its humble beginnings with a few families in the basement of St. Mary's Church and PS 78Q, both in Long Island City, it has expanded to dozens of students learning at various locations, such as the Queensbridge Houses.

"There is a strong sense of identity and engagement that we foster," said Silvana Vasconselos, manager of the library's Family Literacy Program.

During a special party for this year's class at PS 78Q Friday, those families showed off not only the new skills they learned during their eight months, but also the culture they will pass on to future generations. Some 27 parents of PS 78Q's elementary students celebrated the end of the program Friday with a feeling of accomplishment and pride.

"I took a computer class and helped teach sewing. My son took the music lessons," said Nami Fujimori, a Japanese native who took part in the program with her 9-year-old son, Soltra. "It was an interesting class for the both of us."

The students commit to 12 hours of participation a week for 32 weeks, learning how to read and write in English as well as basic computer and Internet skills and taking art and music classes. The program was advantageous for many of the parents, who emigrated from places such as India, Mexico and Bangladesh, as they said it helped them be more fluent in both American language and customs.

The adult learners put their new skills to work by each creating a children's book with the help of colorful illustrations and computer graphics. The parents talked candidly about coming up with the idea for their pieces, on display in the school's multi-purpose room.

"I never expected how hard it is, so now I really appreciate people who make books," said Rodolfo Rosales, who immigrated to New York from Mexico in 1995.

The stories chronicled the author's native culture and history and his or her own story growing up there. The parents said they hoped their stories would keep their native customs alive in their families.

"My children learned what I did as a child from my book," said Firuza Akter, who emigrated from India.

The younger students also demonstrated what they learned from the program with a rock concert and a dance performance.

"It's reflective of the immigrant family," Vasconselos said of the program. "It's about who we are, what we do and where we will go."

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

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