News & Blog

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Written by Libby Wahlstrom, Development Director, & Cynthia Salinas, Communication Coordinator & FLP Instructor

66362871 2404157849647336 2846880043785781248 nIn the summer of 2019, hundreds of families gathered each week in local parks for family-friendly literacy events. Special guests read stories aloud, local ice cream and food vendors gave away summer treats, and every child who attended received a brand new, age-appropriate book each week. By all accounts, Storytime in the Park was a huge success. 

The idea for Storytime in the Park came many years earlier from Barbara Lubic, a professor at Grand Valley State University. She and her friend Barbara Bush—a local ice cream shop owner—wanted to do something to celebrate the parks and the community in the summer. They decided to give away books and ice cream at weekly summer gatherings in Garfield Park. What began with 50 attendees 11 years ago has turned into something far greater. 

Written by Wendy Falb, Ph.D., Executive Director

95627669 10157382148127634 5095981286569279488 o copyAs summer draws to a close, the Literacy Center is in the midst of planning for our most unusual—and important—year of programming yet. Because we know that COVID-19 has only deepened the disparities caused by low literacy, we have pushed hard to innovate in this new environment so that we can not only sustain our support of adult literacy, but expand and improve how we meet this crucial need in our community. 

Written by Carrie Roper, IET Coordinator

In the final weeks of June, we celebrated the ending of our two Citizenship Preparation ESL classes. What began as two in-person classes on opposite sides of Grand Rapids soon became a collaborative and experimental response to the communities’ needs during an uncertain time.  

 Written by Carrie Roper, IET Coordinator

Shola GroupShola came to the United Stated from Nepal in 2018 with her husband and their young daughter.  The reason?  To find better opportunities for work and to further her education.  In her home country, going on to higher education, especially in healthcare, can be very expensive.  That is why Shola was excited to hear about the certified nursing assistant (CNA) classes being offered at no cost through Goodwill and the Literacy Center.

Johanna Schulte is a Grand Rapids native. She works in the City of Grand Rapids Community Development department and has been tutoring with the Literacy Center since 2017. She recently spoke with her Literacy Coordinator about her experience. 

Why did you decide to tutor with the Literacy Center?

I was interested in finding a volunteer opportunity and found out about the work of the Literacy Center from a friend. I wanted to be involved in work that would contribute to making our community a more welcoming and equitable place.

Written by Chad Patton, Customized Workplace English Director

For Olivia, Kent District Library (KDL) was a place to check out books and movies and use the computer. But, for Olivia, the library also represented a future career.

“I like the idea to be able to work in the library,” Olivia said.

Guest blogger: Chad Patton, Director of Customized Workplace English

If there were one word to describe Antonio, it would probably be “handy.” Since Michiganders were asked to Stay Home and Stay Safe due to the Coronavirus, Antonio has been taking the time to work around the house.

Lorenzo Gutierrez moved to Belmont, MI from Saint Albans, VT when he retired in 2018. He has been a Literacy Center tutor since late 2018. He recently spoke with his Literacy Coordinator about his experience. 

Why did you decide to tutor with the Literacy Center? What was it that drew you to this volunteer opportunity?

I moved to Michigan from Vermont in May of 2018. Upon moving to Michigan, I was looking for volunteer opportunities where I could be involved in some way with my new community.

Jennifer Summers, Customized Workplace English Coordinator

Eliana started classes at the Literacy Center in January of 2018. She had come with her family from Venezuela, and she started classes with her in-laws, Larry and Coromoto. She worked hard and made rapid progress, graduating from the highest levels of our programming by the end of September that year. I recently called and had the opportunity to check in with her.

Guest Blogger: Jennifer Summers, Customized Workplace English Coordinator

Maria Zamudio is a busy woman with a heart for others and a plan to get where she wants to be. She currently works for a law firm, where she helps people in the Hispanic community to address their needs. Her ultimate goal is to be a lawyer in the US so that she can continue serving her community.

Guest Blogger: Omar Cuevas, Vice President for Sales and Marketing at the Grand Rapids Chamber and Literacy Center Board Member

As a kid growing up in Southern California in the early 80’s, I served as an interpreter for my grandmother while my mom, grandpa and uncles were working. They pay wasn’t bad at all. My nana made the most wonderful homemade flour tortillas she would hand to me right off the stove as she made them with her beautiful hardworking hands.

Being the oldest grandson and already having an education (consisting of being able to read and speak English) and in the 4th grade, I was often called in to action. Joining my grandma and cousins or my sister to a doctor’s office or dentist appointment. Sometimes we would need to take a bus, and this would usually end with my nana having to hail a police officer to help us because we took the wrong bus.

Chad Patton, Director of Customized Workplace English, interviewed Debra Hardiman about her experience in the adult reading and writing class at the Literacy Center. 

When Debra Hardiman called the Literacy Center to ask about joining a class, she had to build up the courage to make the call. “I had to take a deep breath before I called,” Debra said.

The Literacy Center is taking the following steps to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus:

  • The Literacy Center's office is closed at this time. All staff are working remotely and accessible via email. With general questions, contact info@literacycenterwm.org
  • Our Spellebration event originally planned for March 26, 2020 will be a virtual event held on June 4, 2020.  
  • Remote learning resources will be posted on social media and sent via email as they become available.

We will continue to keep our website and social media updated. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact us at info@literacycenterwm.org or via Facebook.

El Literacy Center ha tomado las siguientes medidas para limitar la propagación de COVID-19:

This week’s story comes from one of our AmeriCorps team members, Anna Leo. She teaches at Cesar E. Chavez as an ESL instructor for our Family Literacy Program (FLP). 

“Sometimes, I wonder how beneficial our friendly conversation is. We always finish the class work that we need to, but, every so often, the topics of learning prompt unexpected and sometimes rambling conversation--a discussion about home life, the analysis of a meme found online, or the sharing of miscellaneous recipes.

LitCenter Summit FBEventHeader 01

The Community Literacy Summit will be held on Friday, Feb. 28 from 7:30 AM- 2:00 PM at the GVSU Eberhard Center in downtown Grand Rapids. The half day event will address the language and literacy development in young children ages birth to five, specifically those that lead to kindergarten readiness and grade level reading. Below are a listing of the 10 Summit breakouts offered during two sessions. Register for the event today

Gonzalo is a learner in our tutoring program and takes English classes at his children's school with our family literacy program. He wrote about his experience. 

My name is Gonzalo Gonzalez.

I am from Guatemala. I was 19 years old when I came to America. I work for Ventra. I live near Buchanan elementary school. I am married and have 5 children. They are 3-5-7-9 and 11.

Guest blogger: Jennifer Summers, Customized Workplace English Program Coordinator

When we first profiled Ahmed Abdo in January 2017, he was preparing for a plant-wide layoff at work and studying to become a U.S. citizen. Since then, he’s made significant progress toward his goals as he continues to study with both the tutoring and workplace English programs at the Literacy Center. I sat down with him again this month to talk about his journey and his next steps.

 The Literacy Center's Annual Community Literacy Summit, Ready to Read, Ready to Succeed: Developing Literacy Birth to Five, will be held on Friday, February 28, 2020 from 7:30 am- 2:00 pm at Grand Valley State University's Eberhard Center. Tickets are available at www.literacycenterwm.org/summit2020

The Literacy Center's staff and Summit planning committee spent many, many hours researching keynote speakers for our 2020 Summit. One name (well, more like one TEDx Talk) rose above the rest. Dr. Keisha Siriboe impressed everyone with her dynamic presentation style, and her depth of knowledge on early childhood literacy and parent-child reading aloud. 

Guest Blogger: Rebekah Ewing, Literacy Coordinator

Last week, we celebrated with Pedro de Ingunza Aguilar as he graduated from our Adult Tutoring Program. After just eight months of working alongside his tutor, Julie Gendler, Pedro reached the 9th grade reading level! He reports that now he can communicate better at work, pronounce words better, and understand what people say.

Guest Blogger: Carrie Roper, IET Coordinator

Rosa Chen originally came to the Literacy Center for help with her English language skills. She quickly discovered, however, that we had many additional resources to help her pursue her goals.

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