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College book club for ESOL students continues to thrive in lockdown


A book club at Westminster Kingsway College (@Westking) for students whose first language is not English has continued to thrive online during lockdown.

Around 50 students from six classes taking English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) courses attend weekly book clubs that initially began fortnightly with two classes.

The club, which has been held on Microsoft Teams during the pandemic, mainly reads and discusses short stories adapted to the English level of the students in the class.

Tales with a twist are among the most popular with students, including works by Guy de Maupassant, Saki, Roald Dahl, Edgar Allan Poe, Frank O’Connor and Sara Paretsky.

Students read, learn about the vocabulary and take part in quizzes to reinforce their language skills. They also look at other texts including songs, riddles, tongue-twisters and newspaper articles.

ESOL student Amalia Castano, 47, from Camden, who was born in Colombia and came to the UK from Spain, said:

“I really enjoy the book club. It’s really helped me to improve my English and develop my reading skills and vocabulary so I can understand more.

“The teachers on my course, in my opinion, are really good and the best I have had in my life. I feel very comfortable and want more classes like this.

“When I first came to the UK I could not express myself very well, but I can now. I’m really proud. For me the college is marvellous, it’s been amazing. I’m really happy.”

College librarian Josh Ramsden set up the club for ESOL Entry Level students at the college’s Soho Centre in 2009, which was later extended to include Level 1 students.

The club moved online at the start of the first lockdown in March 2020 and was extended to ESOL students at the college’s King’s Cross Centre at the start of this term.

Josh said:

“Reading English is one of the best ways for ESOL students to enlarge their English vocabulary and their understanding of English grammar as well as to gain confidence in creatively using the language. The weekly book club plays a big role in that, and students who regularly attend the book club have noticed the beneficial effect on their English.”

Josh, who has a Master’s Degree in English Literature, also runs a classics book club for all students at WestKing with English at Level 1 or above. These students have read and discussed novels including Lord of the Flies, Fahrenheit 451 and 1984.

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