Toronto Public Library Homepage

This page has been archived and is no longer updated.

English as a Second Language (ESL)

Arabic at Your Library | اللغة العربية في مكتبتك

July 3, 2015 | Suzanne | Comments (1)

Did you know that the Toronto Public Library carries over 3500 materials in the Arabic language? With thousands of materials for adults, teens and children, let us help you find your next favourite Arabic book or movie! We can also make it easier for you to learn Arabic in many different ways – books, audiobooks or online. Welcome to Arabic at your library! مرحبا بكم في اللغة العربية في مكتبتك  

There are seven locations that carry Arabic collections. The largest Arabic collection is at the Toronto Reference Library. Other locations that carry Arabic are the Agincourt, Albion, Fairview, Don Mills, Maryvale and York Woods branches.

A wonderful way to share the joy of reading with children who speak or are learning to speak another language is through dual-language books. Dual-language books tell the story in English and another language. We have a great selection of Arabic and English dual-language books for children.

Here are some of my personal favourites:

Brown Bear Brown Bear   Splash!   The Very Hungry Caterpillar   We're Going on a Bear Hunt

If you are looking to explore our Arabic collection, have a look at these links to our great collection of Arabic Books, DVDs, audiobooks & music.

Travelling somewhere and need to learn Arabic on the go? Try using Mango Languages to learn Arabic. Our Overdrive collection also has a number of titles to help you learn Arabic. Or explore a world of titles in hoopla.

You can learn Arabic:

How to Speak Arabic   Learn Arabic Easily Effectively and Fluently   Subliminal Learn Arabic

Or listen to some great Arabic music:

Arab Classics   Arabic Beat   Arabic Lounge

These are only a few examples -- find many more by browsing Hoopla and Overdrive.

Haven't got a library card yet? It's easy! To borrow materials from the library, all you need to do is sign up for your free library card. Find out how easy it is to get a library card. Here are instructions on how to get a library card in Arabic.


Come and enjoy the many different resources the Toronto Public Library has in your language.

Welcome to Arabic at your library!

مرحبا بكم في اللغة العربية في المكتبة الخاصة بك!

Newcomer Youth -- Welcome to the library!

December 24, 2014 | Suzanne | Comments (1)

Toronto Youth
   [Source: City of Toronto Youth Services]

Are you a youth who is new to Toronto? Maybe even new to Canada? There can be a lot to adjust to in your new home. Not only are you in a brand new place, but you might be starting at a new school, trying to make new friends, and of course, trying to have some fun too!  The Toronto Public Library is here to help you! Not only can we find that textbook or novel you need for an assignment, we also have free programs, homework help, computer classes, and so much more!

Do you want to learn more about your new home? Or perhaps you are preparing for the Citizenship Test. Why not try using the My Canada database from our online databases? This helpful resource has lessons and practice tests on Canadian history, geography, government & culture. Give it a try!

My Canada Database
Outside of the library, Citizenship and Immigration Canada has a great website called NewYouth is an online community for newcomer youth, offering information on any questions you might have about school, work, immigration, law, health or daily life.

NewYouth Website
I got the chance to speak to Jai Sahak, Content Coordinator for the site, who told us a bit about himself, his involvement with the site and his tips for newcomer youth. 

What is your involvement with the site and youth?

Jai: I am the Content Coordinator for and its French counter-part It’s my responsibility to identify issues relevant to newcomer youth in Ontario and present those issues using new media outlets. The site contains articles which address key issues every newcomer to Ontario faces. The site also has a large collection of videos from other newcomer youth sharing their experiences and challenges with starting a new school, making friends and life in Ontario in general. 

What is the most common inquiry you get from youth?

 Jai: From the discussion forum on our site, the most common inquiry we get from youth is in regards to access to better and more effective services in their city. Youth find it problematic to apply for Ontario Works, find a shelter, food bank or community health centre in their cities. More needs to be done at the school level to inform youth about what services are available to them and how they can benefit from their local library branch.  

What are some of the best ways newcomer youth can get involved in Toronto?

Jai: Newcomer youth in Toronto can do a number of things to get involved in their city. The most valuable way is to volunteer at their school, a community centre or a local library. Volunteering can provide youth with Canadian job experience which will be important once they start applying for work. It also allows them to learn the language and make new friends. Not to mention, it will count towards their community service hours required to graduate secondary school.

Thank you Jai for the great advice!  Just as Jai said, newcomer youth can do a number of things to get involved in their city. Volunteering at the library is a great way to get involved, and a Youth Advisory Group is great way to get involved!  Youth Advisory Group members can help with programs, services, and give feedback on youth collections.

Volunteer-YAGs[Youth Advisory Group Members]

The Toronto Public Library also has a lot of programs for youth.  Check out all of our Upcoming Programs for Teens or the TPL Teens blog for more info!

TEENSFor newcomer youth, the library has a program called Afterschool Newcomer Hubs where newcomer students in grades 7-10 can get free tutored homework help, workshops, electronic gaming and other fun activities.

From Homework Help to a Sushi Making Class, to help finding a job there is bound to be something for you. Best of all, programs and services at the library are always FREE!  Visit your local library branch today to find out how you can get involved!

Youth at Toronto Public Library Branch[Teens hanging out at the Cedarbrae Library] 

The Library Now Has Free Telephone Stories in 15 Languages!

June 7, 2014 | Iana | Comments (0)

Do you enjoy listening to stories? Have you heard of Dial-a-Story? Toronto Public Library has a FREE phone line 416-395-5400 you can call 24 hours a day and listen to recorded stories in 15 languages.

Recently we added a new language - there are now stories recorded in Tagalog!

It is a very popular service - only in the year 2012 the Dial-A-Story service received  251,917 calls!

Every day there are different stories to listen to in each language and they are divided by age - stories for younger children (7 and under) and for older children (up to 12).


You can listen to Dial-a-Story in the following fifteen languages:  


  • English Dialastory1
  • French
  • Cantonese
  • Gujarati
  • Italian
  • Korean
  • Mandarin
  • Polish
  • Portuguese
  • Russian
  • Somali
  • Spanish
  • Tamil
  • Tagalog
  • Urdu


The newest language that will be added to the story phone line later in 2014 is Persian!

The library will also will continue to add new stories in the languages we currently have.

For example this year 6 new Portuguese stories were recorded and there are plans for new Spanish, French and English stories.

So listen to a story in a language that you know or even in a new one. It is fun to hear how a different language sounds. We all experience this daily in our multicultural city of Toronto.


Dial-a-story Helps  You Practice English as a Second Language (ESL)

Listening to stories in English and French is also a great way to practice your listening comprehension and vocabulary if you are learning English or French as a Second Language.

Among the stories that are recorded and rotated on the phone - there are also many stories recorded for special occasions such as Black History Month, Asian Heritage Month, Aboriginal Month, Christmas, Summer Reading Club.

If you are a newcomer - your family can enjoy stories in your heritage language as well as practice English.


Borrow Books and Other Materials in Your Language from the Library

In addition to stories by phone, you can of course find children's and adult books in many languages (we call them multilingual collections) at some of the branches of Toronto Public Library. Please visit your local library for more information, call our Answerline service at 416-393-7131 or browse the library's list of multilingual collections by language to find out which library has materials in your language.


Read Other Related Blog Posts from Library Staff:


So why not call 416-395-5400 for and enjoy some wonderful storytelling!

Free Multilingual eBooks Available for Download on OverDrive

December 9, 2013 | Debby | Comments (0)

TPL eBooks Campaign

Have you seen our advertising campaign for free eBooks from the library?
Have you ever used OverDrive to download eBooks or eAudiobooks?

With a Toronto Public Library card, you can access our OverDrive database to download eBooks for FREE! Visit the website for more information.

If you are downloading eBooks for the first time, we have many resources available for your support:

Getting started with eBooksNeed Technical Help with eBooksEBook Programs


NEW! Do you read in another language?

Recently, Toronto Public Library has expanded their digital collections to include multilingual eBooks in Spanish, French (Canadian), Russian, Simplified Chinese, and Traditional Chinese. You can now download eBooks in your native language!

*More languages will be added in time. 

Spanish Interface OverDrive
[Screen shot of OverDrive's eBooks in Spanish]

Download a bestseller today! If you require further assistance, see eBook FAQs.


Multicultural Films at The Toronto Public Library

October 2, 2013 | Debby | Comments (0)

Did you miss the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) this year? TIFF was the highlight of the city from September 4-14, 2013 and you can read what our blogger, Alyson, had to say in her Toronto International Film Festival post. Last year our blogger, Melanie, wrote a great post about TIFF and Exploring the World in Movies.


There are many great films featured each year and with a Toronto Public Library card, you can borrow some of these great films and watch them in the comfort of your own home! Take a look at some of our highlights:

  A Monster in Paris Flower Drum Song Inescapable Lore Princess Kaiulani

For more staff suggestions, Download the Film Watcher's Guide to Multicultural Films at the Library!

Last year's list can be found here: Download the MULTICULTURAL FILMS LIST

If you see a title you like, search for it through our library catalogue at and place a hold on it with your library card! If you have any questions, please call our answerline at: 416-393-7131


Do you have a library card?

Toronto Public Library CardHave you just arrived in Canada? Visit a library near you to obtain your free library card so you can start borrowing free ESL books, CDs and so much more, right away. Just remember to bring an ID and proof of address in Toronto (such as a bill or rental lease). If you don't have a document yet with your new Toronto address - library staff can mail to you a library postcard that you can bring back, confirming your address.

Newcomer Artist Award Opportunity

August 16, 2013 | Debby | Comments (0)


Have you recently moved to Canada?

Are you a professional artist?

Are you a resident of the City of Toronto?

If you’re a recent new immigrant and a professional artist, you can apply for $10,000 in funding being offered by the Neighbourhood Arts Network and TELUS.

TELUS Newcomer Artist Award

Administered by the Neighbourhood Arts Network and Toronto Arts Foundation, this prize is specifically geared for an individual artist who is a newcomer to Canada, a resident of the City of Toronto and making a positive impact in their community through their artistic practice.

Deadline is Sept. 10, 2013

You are eligible if you are:

  • An individual artist
  • A newcomer to Canada (having moved to Canada within 1 to 7 years)
  • Over the age of 18
  • A current resident of the City of Toronto (Must have lived in Toronto for a minimum of 1 year)
  • A Neighbourhood Arts Network member (You can sign up for our free membership prior to applying at


For more information on the Art selection process or contact. Please visit the Neighbourhood Arts Network website.




ESL Summer Classes, Learn English with Mango and More

June 4, 2013 | Iana | Comments (4)

ESL section at the libraryThe ESL summer brochure of the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) just came out and here is the good news for English language learners in Toronto this summer! You can attend summer  ESL (English as a second language) classes between July 2-26, 2013.

The choice of classes during the summer is more limited that the rest of the year, but there are still 23 locations spread across the city that you can attend ESL classes, while enjoying summer. Download the pdf version of the Adult ESL Summer Program 2013 brochure. (At the end of summer - check your local library for the next ESL brochure with the busy Fall class schedule by TDSB.)

To register:

  • Simply go to the ESL location of your choice on the first day of class.
  • Remember to bring a proof of residency in Canada.

Please note that those classes are FREE for Canadian citizens, permanent residents, convention refugees, refugee claimants, Live-in Caregiver program participants, Canadian experience class participants, provincial nominees. All adults, 18 years and older, are welcome. "Visitors" to Canada can attend classes for $7 per hour.

For any questions about these ESL classes - contact the TDSB ESL program: or 416-338-4300. The Toronto Catholic School Board (TCDSB)  - another public school board in the city may be offering free  ESL classes in the summer - for more information: 416-397-6600 or


Mango Languages icon - online learning centre



If you prefer to study from the comfort of your home or on your mobile devide, especially during one of those hottest and most humid summer days in Toronto - why not try the online ESL courses offered by MANGO? With your free Toronto Public Library card - you can login to Mango at any time. Then choose between a "basic" and "complete" ESL course.

Mango offers customized ESL courses for fifteen languages! These are: ESL Spanish, ESL Brazilian Portuguese, ESL French, ESL Russian, ESL Mandarin, ESL Cantonese, ESL Italian, ESL Arabic, ESL Japanese, ESL Vietnamese, ESL Polish, ESL Korean, ESL Greek, ESL German, and ESL Turkish.

How to find the "Mango" database at the library? Visit the Toronto Public library's website and simply type "MANGO" in the search box, then click on the Mango icon and enter your library card number.


  Watch this "Getting a library card" video,  TPL's youtube channel.



Have you just arrived in Canada? Visit a library near you to obtain your free library card so you can start borrowing free ESL books, CDs and so much more, right away. Just remember to bring an ID and proof of address in Toronto (such as a bill or rental lease). If you don't have a document yet with your new Toronto address - library staff can mail to you a library postcard that you can bring back, confirming your address.


Families at the libraryToronto's libraries are open all summer long and are air-conditioned (so helpful in the hot humid days  of July)! They have welcoming spaces and staff, and are usually located nearby (98 busy branches to choose from, and a bookmobile!).  

Each library branch has some ESL materials on the shelf,  and many more can ne requested from the website catalogue. The largest ESL centre is at the Toronto Reference Library. For more on that, read our previous post: Learning English at Toronto Reference Library: The largest ESL collection in Toronto.


How to find more summer ESL classes in the community:

  •  Call 211 or search the 211Toronto website for ongoing ESL classes (and other community resources) offered by newcomer agencies.
  • Talk to a summer LSP settlement worker at 20 branches of Toronto Public Library. They provide information for newcomers, including ESL.
  • Just arrived in Canada? Visit a YMCA Language Assessment and Referral Centre to get your English language tested and be referred to the appropriate class level (book your appointment with the YMCA assessment hotline at 416-925-546).


Picture Books on Learning English

March 14, 2013 | Debby | Comments (3)

Public libraries are a wonderful place to discover many different books on a variety of topics. The picture book format may have been written for children, but these valuable books can also be enjoyed by people of all ages. 

Learning the English language has it's difficulties and there is no shortage of books and stories that highlight these frustrations. The following is a small list of picture books that underline and focus on the distress and irritations in learning a new language.


Carmen Learns English by Judy CoxCarmen Learns English by Judy Cox is about Spanish-speaking student, Carmen, who has newly-arrived in the United States from Mexico. Carmen is apprehensive about going to school and learning English, until friends show her new English words. 

I Hate English! by Ellen LevineI Hate English! by Ellen Levine is about young girl, Mei Mei who moves to New York from Hong Kong with her family. Mei Mei finds it difficult to adjust to school, while learning the alien sounds of English and does not understand the need to learn a new language.

 In English of Course by Josephine Nobisso
In English of Course
by Josephine Nobisso is about Italian-born, Josephine, who tries to tell her new American class about her life in Italy, in English of course. Through multicultural miscommunications, Josephine makes herself understood.

 Marianthe's Story, Painted Words and Spoken Memories by Aliki 

Painted Words by Aliki is a book of two stories. One is the telling of Mari's starting school in a new land, and the second describing village life in her country before she and her family left in search of a better life. Mari's paintings are used as the medium for her narration as she struggles to understand a new language at school.


Uncle Rain Cloud by Tony JohnstonUncle Rain Cloud by Tony Johnston is about young Carlos, who tries to help his uncle, frustrated and angry at his inability to speak English, adjust to their new home in Los Angeles.


My Name is Yoon by Helen RecorvitsMy Name is Yoon by Helen Recorvits is all about Korean-born "Yoon" who dislikes her name written in English, and refers to herself as "cat," "bird," and "cupcake," as a way to feel more comfortable in her new school and new country. As she learns the meaning of her Korean name, she begins to accept her place in her new home.

The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi is about new student, Unhei, and her name that nobody can pronounce. After Unhei moves from Korea to the United States, her new classmates help her decide what her name should be by putting their suggestions into a jar.


All these books and more are available at the 98 Toronto Public Libraries throughout the city. For more information on where to locate these books, please click on the book image or visit our main page at

Related Blog Posts:
Also have a look at one of our New to Canada blogger's post on Discover Canada in Children's Picture books for more picture book choices!

What's your favourite picture book?

Online Resources for Newcomers

February 16, 2013 | Melanie | Comments (2)

How do I properly dispose of my old CD player? How do I get that pot-hole on my street fixed? Where can I get the flu shot?

These are some of the questions many newcomers may have when they arrive in Toronto, but many people may not know where to look.

The City of Toronto website is a great resource for finding answers to your everyday questions. Here are a few of my favourite City of Toronto online resources.



Waste Wizard is a great online resource for finding out how to properly dispose of unwanted items. I use this resource quite frequently because many times I'm not sure whether something goes in the garbage or recycling bin. I guarantee that once you start using it, you won't be able to stop!

Waste Wizard


311 is a muncipal information service that provides access to information about non-emergency city services 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can access 311 either by phone (just dial 3-1-1), or through their website ( If you have a question, and you don't know whom to ask, start with 311! If they can't answer your question, they'll be able to refer you to someone who will.

You can use 311 to request information for anything from tree pruning to water service, and even for road and weather conditions. Once, I even used 311 to report a dog I thought to have been abandoned. Whatever your question is, 311 will connect you with the right city service.



Did you also know that Toronto Public Library has some great online resources for newcomers and English language learners? You will need your library card to access these databases, but once you're logged in, you'll find a wealth of information to help you settle into your new life in Toronto.

Here are some of the best databases for newcomers and ESL students:



Road to IELTSThis IELTS database helps you to prepare and practice for your IELTS test by providing links to reading, listening, speaking, and writing practice tests. This database may come in handy, especially now that skilled workers and professionals who immigrate to Canada must provide proof of language proficiency.



Mango Languages is another great resource that provides online English language learning courses tailored for speakers of Chinese, Arabic, Russian, Spanish, and other languages. If you're interested in learning a third or fourth language, Mango also provides language learning courses for fifty other languages, including Spanish, Japanese, Hindi, and even Pirate!



My Canada is an online resource that will help you learn more about Canada's history, geography, government, and culture.


This online resource will help you develop the skills you need to learn English. Study Skills Success offers courses on English reading, writing, listening and speaking skills. Once you've mastered these four language skills, you can also try out their grammar, vocabulary, critical thinking and research courses.



Learning Express Library is your one-stop shop for practice tests, exercises, and skill-building courses on subjects ranging from math and science, to social studies and reading comprehension. Learning Express Library also provides online courses on job and career skills, including how to write a resume, tips for successful job interviews and job search information. But wait! There's more! Learning Express Library also provides TOEFL practice tests, as well as Canadian citizenship practice exams.

Learning Express Canada



Business WritingAnd last but not least, the Business Writing online resource is a great online learning tool for small-business owners, job seekers, and professionals alike. This online resource provides you with online courses for developing a variety of business and career related skills, including how to write a report, how to apply for a job, and even how to successfully share your ideas with colleagues.


So how do you access these wonderful online databases? It's easy! just follow these instructions:

  1. Go to
  2. Click on "Articles and Online Research."
  3. Click on "A - Z list of all databases."
  4. Search for your desired database from the list, which is in alphabetic order. Once you've found the database you're looking for, click on the orange "Access Online" button.
  5. Type in your library card number and PIN.
  6. Click on the orange "Continue" button
  7. Start learning!


Do you find these online resources useful? Which online resources have you used to help you settle in Toronto? Let us know!

Dial-a-Story During the Winter Season

February 2, 2013 | Debby | Comments (0)

Are you looking for warm things to do on a cold, wintry day?
Have you heard about Toronto Public Library's Dial-a-Story service?

If you love listening to stories, phone: 416-395-5400, FREE, 24 hours a day, to hear stories recorded in 14 different languages, as well as English.


A full list of languages on Dial-a-Story include:
Cantonese, English, French, Italian, Gujurati, Urdu, Mandarin, Polish, Portuguese, Somali, Spanish, Russian, Tamil, and our newest addition, Korean.

There are different stories every day and you can choose from stories for younger children (7 and under) and for older children (up to 12).

Experience the magic of storytelling! 


Don't forget to have a look at our other services while you are there:
Hear-a-Story in various languages on our KidsSpace website
Read-a-Story from one of the recommended links
Tell-a-Story with the interactive tool available on our KidsSpace website

And all of the fun programs available for Newcomer children!

Related Blog posts:
Dial-a-Story: A great way to practice listening skills!
Every Day is "Family Literacy Day" at the Library!

Welcome! This blog is written by librarians and provides information and resources available from the library and around Toronto to new residents of Canada. For more information see the Library's Help for Newcomers website