The Rapidian

Literacy Center of West Michigan Family Literacy Program Thrives at Head Start

Literacy Center of West Michigan and Head Start for Kent County Continues Partnership to Provide Family Literacy Program
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For the past four years, the Literacy Center of West Michigan and Head Start for Kent County (HS4KC) have worked together to provide literacy learning opportunities for Head Start families. The Family Literacy Program, funded by donations to the Literacy Center, is free and available to any parent/caregiver of a child enrolled in participating Head Start for Kent County locations: Adams, Fulton Street, Henry, and Rogers Lane. Early Head Start families are also invited to participate. Weekly two-hour tutoring sessions are provided to parents/caregivers and may take place throughout the day in public locations, such as libraries, churches, and office buildings. Participating families also enjoy Family Activity Nights including complimentary dinner, reading activities, and early literacy education. Families are asked to make a 6-month commitment to the program.

During the past year, 149 family members were impacted by the program: 54 parents and 95 children. 38% participated in the program for 6-11 months, 47% participated in the program for a year or more. 69% of the adult students who completed at least 40 hours of instruction and a post-test achieved a significant (3-point or greater) gain in their literacy skills. 100% of the participating parents increased the frequency of pre-reading activities with their children at home, and all the children made a gain in the areas of literacy and language. In comparison to a control group of children whose parents identified themselves as being low-literate but who did not participate in the program, children who did participate in the Family Literacy Program made greater average gains in 11 of 13 areas of literacy/language development.

Successful adult participants have obtained jobs and library cards, increased contact with their children’s teachers, increased involvement in community activities, and helped their children with their homework. One participant surpassed a ninth-grade read level and graduated from the program. Another participant obtained her U.S. citizenship. One student said, “Every day my kids ask me if I got my homework done for my tutor!” They are excited to be able to use their improved skills in many situations at home, at work, and in other public settings.

During the coming school year, Head Start for Kent County will expand the number of participating locations to include the Springhill site in Walker.

“This work is a true collaboration of two agencies blending their best work into an innovative program for their families,” said Mary Hockwalt, Executive Director of Head Start for Kent County.

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