‘Connection across the sea:’ Shelton library helps give Romanian students an English lesson

SHELTON — Some Romanian students are getting an English lesson thanks to books donated from Shelton libraries.

Plumb Memorial Library Children’s Librarian Maura Gualtiere said she was approached by a regular patron, Robert Balan, who purchased a bag of children’s books this past fall.

While talking to Balan, she said she learned his cousin, Andreea Sociu, teaches in Romania and the books were for her students. At that point, she said she gathered some new books, which had been purchased through grant money, and provided them to him as well to send to his sister.

“He was looking for children’s books written in English to bring to her students,” Gualtiere said. “I decided to give him some new children’s books, too, for free. Children need to hold new books in their hands, too.”

Sociu runs a private English Centre in Bacau, a small town in the northeast part of Romania. The school opened in 2009 and presently teaches some 100 students, ranging from 5 years old to high school age. Most of them are between 6 to 11 years old, Sociu said.

“Although we are teachers that were taught English in a different way from the new methods nowadays, books are still a huge resource for us,” Sociu, who teaches first, sixth and seventh grade this year, said.

“We were very excited to receive them,” she added. “We are trying to have our little library to inspire kids to rediscover the benefits of reading — actual books, not on iPads.”

Sociu said she and her staff believe that if a 7-, 8- and 10-year-old child can brag to themselves about reading a whole book in English, that’s a success.

“Not all the kids can learn English easily, and we show them that through little books they can discover new words and acquire vocabulary easily,” Sociu said. “We try to build up their confidence in learning a foreign language. We organize little reading challenges competitions and the prizes are the books.”

Gualtiere said she received an email from the school thanking her for the “kind gesture.

“We, the teachers, got really excited when we saw the books,” the email reads. “Having books that traveled from so far. We have an extra reason to advise our students to read, especially nowadays, facing new challenges.”

“How marvelous to have a connection across the sea,” Gualtiere said.

Sociu said her cousin, Balan, who now resides in the state, is also a teacher, so he understands her students’ need for more books written in English.

“It wasn’t hard at all to convince him,” Sociu said about her cousin obtaining the books for her school. “Actually, he made us a little surprise. This is the second time he sent us books.”