Our Family Literacy program is funded with Title III funds, to support the parents of English language learners. We have daytime and evening English classes for parents, using the limited available space in twelve elementary schools. Most of our classes are held two nights per week in the schools, though we also have three daytime programs.
Sustaining a program such as this is a challenge. For a number of years, we had challenges with the “children’s class” portion of our program. Adults from the community, who were certified to provide child care, were hired to watch the children during the 2 hour parent’s English class. Games and supplies were provided. Occasionally, family nights were held, where the families came together and played some games, perhaps brought covered dish dinners, and had fun together. There were few expectations for the family night programs. Gradually, the number of children attending dwindled to very few, and consequently, parents often dropped out as well. Discipline and classroom management was often a problem. Keeping the various aged children busy and engaged was not easy.
This year, we tried something different; we hired classroom teachers to work with the children – and this made a huge difference! [Read more about this change in my previous post: A Quality Program for Children]
The classroom teachers were able to work closely with the Adult ESOL Instructor to create PACT (Parent and Child Together) programs that were educational, meaningful and FUN for everyone. The teachers used materials and resources that had been purchased specifically for the program, but often added their own resources to enhance the lessons and activities. Our professional development sessions were helpful to the teachers in guiding their understanding of PACT time, as well as giving them opportunities to share successful activities with one another.
The PACT activities supported the kinds of learning that was taking place in the school. The teachers were able to strengthen the PACT activities by providing appropriate parenting information, including knowledge about the school, the curriculum, the Standards of Learning, instructional strategies, and ways to help at home. These PACT lessons provided parents with important and relevant information and skills that they could use to support their children.
Finally, the teachers were paid at a high rate, to honor the work they were doing with the children – much more than just babysitting! Their enthusiasm and energy made the children’s classes fun and interesting, and consequently the attendance rate was very high.
Seventeen of the twenty five teachers we hired last fall to work with the children are planning to return again next fall – a big plus for us! We can move forward with professional development, rather than having to start all over training all new teachers. The teachers commented that the structures we put into place for the program this year, plus the professional development sessions that included time for sharing, helped them tremendously and gave them a framework with which to work. We’ve already begun planning our PD for September, taking the teachers’ suggestions into consideration for the content. And we are looking forward to seeing our community of learners again after the summer break.
What have you done in your Family Literacy program to help maintain personnel and sustain the existing program?