David LaFrance, administrator of the nine state-funded public libraries in Bradford County, says he uses an online program called Mango Languages to learn Spanish, Italian and Polish.
“I find it to be very useful,” LaFrance said.
Mango Languages, which allows the public to learn 35 foreign languages at their own pace, is one of a growing number of resources that are available on the websites of the nine state-funded public libraries in Bradford County, librarians say.
Approximately a year ago, Mango Languages and the popular TumbleBookLibrary talking e-books for children became accessible to the public through all nine libraries’ websites, LaFrance said.
And the number of audiobooks and e-books on the nine libraries’ websites, which the public can download to their Kindle and Nook e-book readers, MP3s and iPods, continue to increase all the time, said June Houghtaling, director of the Towanda Public Library.
The public can access all the resources on the libraries’ websites free of charge from home, using a computer that has Internet access. However, you need a library card to access some of the resources.
 
TumbleBookLibrary
One of the goals of TumbleBookLibrary is to help children to learn to read or to improve their reading ability, Houghtaling said.
“Teachers at the Towanda School District are encouraging kids to use TumbleBookLibrary at home,” Houghtaling said. “They are impressed with the product.”
Mango Languages and TumbleBookLibrary e-books “are fun,” said Susan Robinson, director of the Sayre Public Library.
TumbleBookLibrary e-books, which are geared toward children ranging from pre-school to the third or fourth grade, are online picture books that are narrated to the child.
But the child also sees the text of the book on the computer screen while it is read to him or her.
“A child can read along, or simply have the story read to them on the computer,” Houghtaling said.
The child will also see on the screen the book’s illustrations, which are animated to some extent to add interest to the story, she said. And there are sound effects added when appropriate.
“It’s educational, but it’s also entertaining,” Houghtaling said. “They have some real expressive readers reading the stories.”
While the narrator reads the story, the sentence being read is highlighted, which helps the child zero in on the line being read, she said.
The child can also turn the narration off, so that he or she can read the story to him or herself at his or her own pace.
The TumbleBookLibrary collection includes classics such as “Jack and the Beanstalk” and “Old Mother Hubbard,” books by popular author Robert Munsch and many others, Houghtaling said.
The e-books included in the TumbleBookLibrary collection were originally published by companies such as Simon & Schuster, Little Brown, Candlewick Press and others, she said.
Lynn Williams, a children’s librarian at the James V. Brown Library in Williamsport, has said the concept of TumbleBookLibrary is appealing to children.
“When I see kids in this library who are reading and listening to a story online, they are hypnotized,” Williams has said. “They just love it!”
 
Mango Languages
“Mango Languages is a really good tool, which was not available a few years ago, for students to practice a foreign language, to listen to a native speaker, and to add to their vocabulary,” said Phyllis McNeal, a French teacher in the Towanda School District.
“People have been using that (Mango Languages),” said Jeffrey Singer, director of the Bradford County Library. “They really love it.”
Mango Languages can be used by an adult who, for example, wants to start reading in a foreign language, or who would like to travel to a foreign county, LaFrance said.
Mango Language courses provide as much instruction as college-level foreign language courses do, he said.
“You won’t become a native speaker, but it will get you to the level of, say, a second-year college student,” LaFrance said.
 
Other programs
Another valuable resource on the libraries’ websites is Learning Express Library, Houghtaling said.
Learning Express Library has online courses for adults and students, ranging from elementary school students to college students, she said. The courses allow people to improve their skills in various areas, such as math, chemistry, reading comprehension, and resume writing. Some of the courses are for people who need to prepare for a GED exam.
Learning Express Library has, among other things, practice tests, such as civil service tests and college admission tests.
“I think the Learning Express Library is the best-kept secret we have,” Houghtaling said. “It’s such a great tool and it has so much useful information. I think people aren’t aware that it’s out there.”
McNeal, who also teaches English, said she assigns her students to research topics using the POWER Library feature on the libraries’ website.
POWER Library allows the public to access articles from thousands of newspapers and journals, which small, rural libraries would not have the money to buy, she said.
The nine state-funded libraries in Bradford County are the Towanda Public Library, Bradford County Library, Spalding Memorial Library in Athens, Allen F. Pierce Free Library in Troy, Green Free Library in Canton, Mather Memorial Library in Ulster, Monroeton Public Library, Wyalusing Public Library, and Sayre Public Library.
James Loewenstein can be reached at (570) 265-1633; or email: jloewenstein@thedailyreview.com