Special Projects Fund

Project Title

“Know Better – Feel Better”: Queens Library’s Health Literacy Program

Grant Amount


Priority Area

Special Projects Fund

Date Awarded

November 15, 2007








Immigrants and American-born individuals with low literacy skills are among those nationwide who experience the harmful consequences of low health literacy. According to the Queens Library Foundation, the borough of Queens, New York is home to more than one million foreign-born residents who speak 161 distinct languages. Nearly 300,000 residents speak English “not well” or “not at all.” These new immigrants are among the most vulnerable in the health care system. In January 2008, the New York Health Foundation (NYHealth) awarded a $200,000 grant to support the Queens Library Foundation in institutionalizing a health literacy program that had been started with funding from the Langeloth Foundation. Know Better-Feel Better targets low-level English language learners – those who begin with little or no English skills. Queens Library knows of no other such curriculum nationwide for this population.

Throughout the grant period, the Queens Library Adult Learner Beginning Level Health Literacy Curriculum was distributed at conferences and via online links. Lesson plans, accompanying student worksheets, and audio files are online and freely available to the public.

Queens is the most ethnically diverse county in the nation—home to more than 1 million foreign-born residents who come from 191 countries/territories and speak 161 languages. The library is a popular daily destination for thousands of immigrants who seek information and services to improve their lives.

The library’s Adult Learner Program boasts the largest library-based ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) and literacy programs in the United States. Queens Library’s Health Literacy Program brings health learning to a library setting. The project will institutionalize a successful pilot health literacy project begun two years ago that includes classes for 450 people per semester, new project staff, training for literacy teachers at the Queens Library, and the dissemination of a unique health curriculum specially created for low-level English language learners.

This project will not only serve thousands of immigrants living in Queens, it will have much broader implications in the health care, literacy, and library fields. It will: a) put forth a model health literacy project in the unique and important setting of a library—a place where immigrants feel welcome and access a vast array of free resources; b) disseminate a curriculum especially created for low-level English language learners; c) provide professional development in health teaching to those working with immigrants; and d) create a new health literacy measurement tool for low-level English learners.