The Literacy Center of West Michigan today announced it is the recipient of a $110,000 Wege Foundation grant. The funding is being used to expand its Family Literacy Program (FLP). The program teaches parents the language and literacy skills they need to support their child’s education and strengthen the connection between home and school.
The Literacy Center of West Michigan’s FLP program currently uses 15 professional instructors to teach English language skills to more than 200 parents each year. Curriculum is contextualized to the immediate needs and goals of the parents. Key themes include attendance, school communications and navigating systems like health care and banking.
The classes are currently being delivered to parents and caregivers of children at Grand Rapids Public Schools, Godfrey Lee Public Schools, Godwin Heights Public Schools, Hope Charter Academy and Head Start for Kent County. The nonprofit plans to expand FLP to Kentwood Public Schools and anticipates using a mix of in-person and virtual classes to significantly increase its adult learners.
“A key element of FLP is building community among parents and a sense of belonging at the school, providing support for school events and working with parents on the language they need to interact with school staff,” said Wendy Falb, Ph.D., executive director, Literacy Center of West Michigan. “Our program model is designed to fit within parents’ busy lives and to provide them with foundational literacy skills so that their voices are heard and their assets better realized within our community.”
As part of FLP, adult learners attend four hours of instruction each week either online, at their child’s school or at a nearby community space. For in-person classes, the Literacy Center of West Michigan provides free childcare. Daytime and evening classes are available to accommodate adult learners’ schedules. For the virtual classes, the Literacy Center of West Michigan eliminates technology barriers by loaning Chromebooks to learners who do not own a computer.
“We instruct a particularly hard-to-reach population of learners—mostly mothers who have limited literacy in their native languages. They join our classes to increase their literacy, language, and digital skills with the sole focus of helping their children,” said Bree Straayer, Ph.D., Family Literacy Program director, Literacy Center of West Michigan. “We consider everyone in our classes to be potential leaders in their communities. They are growth minded and are committed to learning new skills even with busy lives.”
While FLP has largely served native speakers of Spanish, the Literacy Center of West Michigan is partnering with community organizations like Bethany and Kent County Health Department to include more learners from other language backgrounds.