Archive for Monday, January 3, 1994


January 3, 1994


Two new literacy programs in Lawrence work toward a common goal

A shortcoming of adult literacy programs is that the most disadvantaged nonreaders and nonwriters have the greatest difficulty attending training sessions.

Clients' disproportionately high poverty level creates transportation, child care and motivation obstacles.

Tragically, their fear of being ridiculed by people insensitive to their predicament causes some people to avoid literacy programs altogether.

"That's one thing that adult literacy programs try to do -- give people a chance to break out of that trap," said Marlene Merrill, Lawrence school district's director of assessment and grants.

Diane Bolton, coordinator of a Kansas University literacy program, added: "The Lawrence community needs to address its most reluctant population."

Organizers of two new literacy projects in Lawrence -- KU's Partners in Learning and the Lawrence school district's Even Start Family Literacy Program -- have $355,000 in federal funding and the determination to make a difference in the lives of local families hampered by illiteracy.

Partners in Learning acquired a $100,000 grant to extend its literacy training into the community. The four-year project will permit tutors to work with parents of East Heights School pupils.

Simultaneously, the Lawrence School District will use a $255,000 grant to initiate Even Start. The three-year program's goal is to help parents achieve literacy and become full partners in the education of their children. The operation will be a collaboration between New York School and Brookcreek Learning Center.

Administrators of the two programs have similar approaches: individualize literacy skills instruction, help transport clients to literacy centers, assist parents with child care so they can concentrate on learning, and make use of existing community resources.

"We want to help parents become the first teachers of their children," said Linda McGuire, coordinator of Lawrence's Adult Learning Connection and an Even Start participant.

@briefhed:Even Start

@sc: Cris Anderson, facilitator for Even Start, said the keys to the district's program were parent/child interaction, parent education, parent support and linkage with existing community service organizations.

"That's it all in a silver cup. If you have those four working together, then you've got one heck of a program," said Anderson, an elementary teacher for 16 years.

Even Start's goal is to ensure children enter school ready to learn. The program will provide early childhood education for young people while providing basic skills and literacy instruction for their educationally disadvantaged parents.

Program administrators expect to work with 20 to 25 families in the first year, with training getting under way in early 1994. It will expand to other families and schools in subsequent years.

When the program is operational, parents and instructors will identify family needs and help each parent set goals for themselves and their children.

Goals could range from earning a general equivalency degree or teaching a child the ABCs, Anderson said.

"The long-term effect is what we'll see," she said. "Generations down, when they are breaking that cycle, knowing the sky is the limit after all."

@briefhed:Partners in Learning

@sc: Bolton said Partners in Learning, a program that has paired KU employees with student tutors to improve employees' literacy skills since 1990, would target parents in the East Heights area.

The grant allows Bolton to teach another section of a KU class that trains students to be tutors. These new tutors will work with parents of East Heights children.

At least 10 families will participate in the program.

East Heights was targeted because parents of the school's students are among the least likely to participate in literacy training, Bolton's grant application says.

In addition, school achievement at East Heights was ranked 16th out of 16 elementary schools in the Lawrence during 1990-91.

"The plan for the grant is that parents will work on their own literacy skills for at least a year," she said. "After that, the tutors will work with parents, the children and the children's teachers to help the parents develop their children's literacy skills."

The approach could help two generations improve their literacy skills.

"Research shows a direct correlation between children's literacy levels and ability to succeed in school and their mother's literacy level," Bolton said.

In the fourth year of the grant, Bolton said, the program would train parents to work as tutors of other adults in the community.

"We hope that when the grant funding ends, the parents themselves will be able to continue the program," she said.

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