Tuesday, December 11, 2012

DiscoverBooks integrates English language learning with family literacy

Reader to Reader's DiscoverBooks program is off to a great start in Holyoke, Massachusetts.

At Kelly and EN White Schools the program has a dual purpose: teaching English to Spanish-speaking parents, as well as family literacy with a special focus on parent involvement in the schools. This model has proved very beneficial!

The key to successful language learning is putting the new language skills to use in a real-life context, and this is exactly what the schools provide. Meanwhile parents learn and practice English through family literacy materials, as well as activities that promote positive parent involvement in the child's education and school.

In November the program sessions centered around preparing for parent teacher conferences. Parents learned English that they could use to role play parent-teacher dialogues. They reported that this practice helped boost their confidence in their ability to communicate with the teacher during the conferences!

Jessica Reyes, mother of four children at EN White, reports that "I like going to English class [at EN White] because I am learning how to relate to the teachers and how to understand my children's homework."

The program has also been innovative in putting in place parent classroom observations in the schools. This event was particularly powerful because most of the parents hadn't met their children's teachers before. The time spent in the classroom environment of the children was very beneficial for the parents.

Iris Toro, mother of a first grader at Kelly, said "I felt very comfortable seeing how my children were given the attention they need. It helped me understand my children and their teachers better."

Wanda Delgado, mother of seventh grade twins at Kelly, says "I felt comfortable, because I didn't know the teacher before and I saw my sons were relaxed. The experience was very positive for me personally."

Each school has a group of about 10 committed parents who come to the school twice a week for the class. The class now represents a community of parents that are engaged with each other and with the school-from taking the initiative to create a class snack rotation, to being more comfortable with the school space and staff, to volunteering at the school. Both schools have embraced the program.

Kelly School principal Jacqueline Glasheen says, "This program has really brought the parents into the fold of the school community. The visits to classrooms, preparation for conferences, as well as learning in the same building as their children has made a positive impact on the parents. It has been beneficial to the school and the families!"

We are proud and grateful for this strong start and look forward to continuing the program in the New Year.

DiscoverBooks is made possible by funding from the AEC Trust, the Irene E. & George A Davis Foundation, the United Way, Target, and the Holyoke Food and Fitness Policy Council.

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