I want to share the story of one mother, whom I have known for about 10 years, and how Family Literacy has helped her and her family.
Our school district is very large and we have a very diverse population, both socio-economically and ethnically. We have a wonderful mix of immigrants from all over the world, which brings us enriching cultural experiences and relationships. Our district also has 36 Title I schools.
I worked for 6 years in one of those Title I schools in the field of family engagement. While I was there, I opened a new Parent Center, welcoming parents into our school, providing a place to learn about the school and our American education system, and about how they, as parents, could support their child’s education. This is where I met Maria.
Maria (not her real name) had one son attending our elementary school in grade 3, and one daughter, 3 years old. She frequently brought her daughter with her to the Parent Center while she volunteered and visited with other mothers.
Maria attended the Adult ESOL Family Literacy class that was held in the evenings in our building. Her children came with her and were down the hall in the children’s class while Maria was learning English. Maria was a faithful student and she practiced her English when she visited the Parent Center in our school during the daytime. She was an active volunteer, too!
She also came to our Partners in Print programs, which we held in the evenings 4 times per year. She brought her children, and sometimes her husband. She learned how to read books with her children and ask questions to strengthen comprehension. She also learned how to make books at home, how to help her children practice writing, reinforce beginning sounds, and a variety of other literacy skills. We had a lot of fun at our Partners in Print events!
Later, Maria went on to attend the Adult and Community Education English classes, where she studied English intensely 4 days a week. Her goal was to get a job, to help support her family, and hopefully, someday, help pay for college educations.
I am happy to say that last fall, we hired Maria to work as an Instructional Assistant in our Adult ESOL Family Literacy class at one of our other elementary schools! This is a part time hourly position two nights per week. It’s a perfect place for her to start her career with our school district. Then, she was also hired as an assistant in the preschool children’s program for the daytime Family Literacy classes. I know she will probably not stay with us for too long, as she has higher aspirations. But this is just one of many success stories that makes me realize the impact of Family Literacy. Family Literacy is SO important to our children and their families. We cannot afford to leave the family out of the learning process.
How do you feel about bringing parents into the partnership of educating children? What are the challenges you face in doing this? Do you have a success story you can share?