Family Literacy Project
Where parents and children learn together.
What better way to integrate a much-needed literacy program for parents and children than through a unique family literacy program that celebrates the participants’ culture, heritage and family commitment, while achieving Spanish and English proficiency.
For adults, the program aims to strengthen and improve literacy skills in their native language as well as beginning the process of learning English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL).
This literacy development curriculum works hand-in-hand in developing job skills through computer activities performed both with and without their children.
For the children, the program is centered on pre-reading skills and Spanish and English language development.
Retrieved from the SIP 2009 Tabloid:
Writer: Cheryl Taylor, UTB/TSC News & Information/BLC Board of Director
Outdoor Classroom Blooms at BLC
UTB/TSC future educators apply skills in BLC classroom
Brownsville Literacy Center is committed to adult literacy. Many people are probably not aware, however, of the center’s Family Literacy Program, which is designed for preschoolers and their mothers – though fathers are also encouraged to apply.
Moms attend class upstairs for half the morning, while the little ones are taught basic preschool skills in their downstairs classroom; then the moms join their children for the second half of the morning to participate in more learning activities together.
This time last year, the children’s classroom was not a pleasant sight. Two walls of windows were covered with old purple contact paper and kept sunlight from entering the room. The tattered carpet was unappealing, wooden boards obscured corkboards, and the walls had been painted an array of garish colors.
“It was so gloomy and lifeless in there,” said BLC Executive Director Victor Rivera. “I learned about classroom environment from my class with Dr. Georgianna Duarte, and I knew our family literacy classroom wasn’t a good learning environment for our youngsters.”
After becoming BLC executive director, Rivera took his concerns to his former professor. The two saw a chance to collaborate, allowing students from The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College to use the BLC classroom as a project laboratory.
“Having a real-life classroom situation to apply the skills they were learning in class, Environments in Early Childhood, was a win-win situation for both sides,” Duarte said.
Duarte’s 2008 summer class began the transformation. Hours were devoted to peeling, scraping and painting.
“This was such a great experience for me and my class,” said education student Letty Alvarez. “Well, it was pretty dirty work, and it was summer and so hot, but we had music playing and lots of water. We’d start in late in the afternoon. It was fun but dusty, but we didn’t mind. We knew we were transforming that classroom, not just studying out of a book, but it was actually hands-on learning.”
It was all hands on deck, with BLC’s Mike Martinez ripping up the carpet and laying new vinyl tile. By the end of the summer term, the UTB/TSC students completed their class, satisfied in their accomplishments and knowing they had set the stage for the next phase of the transformation.
Duarte’s fall 2008 class entered the fresh, sunny shell classroom, ready to make their impression. They were charged with arrangement and signage, creating all the learning materials for the walls such as calendars and posters with colors and shapes. Using classroom tables and chairs and an indoor Playscape obtained by a grant from Brownsville Foundation for Health and Education (BFHE), the UTB/TSC students arranged the room into learning centers. There are now designated areas for reading, writing, math, art and dramatic play.
“The Playscape is a wonderful indoor climbing apparatus,” Rivera said. “The Success by Six program, educators, all of us are so concerned about childhood obesity and diabetes. Exercise for youngsters is necessary for healthy development.”
More help came from the University of Texas Health Science Center, Houston, Texas Early Education Model (TEEM) Project funding that provided shelving, supplies and early childhood education manuals. TEEM checks in periodically to evaluate the BLC paid instructors, Ana Villanueva and Mary Aviles, who are both working on their bachelor’s degrees at UTB/TSC.
“In fact, we hope to achieve accreditation from the Center for Improving the Readiness of Children for Learning and Education (C.I.R.C.L.E.) to become a full-fledged pre-school,” Rivera said.
Phase three of this big project, currently underway by Duarte’s spring 2009 class, will transform a long-ago playground. Enclosed by a high wall, this area just off the classroom’s back wall – filled with windows and a glass door, all previously covered – has not been used in recent memory, and by today’s safety standards, it was an unacceptable play space.
The UTB/TSC education students are revitalizing this space into an extension of the classroom, creating an outdoor learning space for embracing curiosity, science concepts, and environment. Separated from the classroom by glass doors and windows, there is a continuity of space that creates a natural expansion of the learning space.
With the concrete surface now painted green to create a grass-like carpet, the stage is set for an outdoor classroom environment, a green zone of plants, trees, gardens, easels for painting, picnic tables for projects, butterfly zones, bird houses and wind socks.
Duarte explained that these spaces will reflect the research of experts in the field of early childhood education, providing multisensory zones, applying the different modalities through which children learn.
“This is an environment where education students can take the theory, applied practices, and create with their energy and knowledge a space that is responsive, effective and inviting for young children building their experiences, and learning to read,” Duarte said.
“We are fortunate to have had Dr. Duarte’s UTB/TSC education students to assist in this revitalization project,” Rivera said. "We hope to continue the collaboration with UTB/TSC well beyond this project and use our Family Literacy classroom as a learning tool for future educators. When they have graduated and are in their own classrooms, perhaps they will teach some of the students who benefitted from their efforts.”
Arnulfo Hernandez, 3 plays at the new children's discovery playground at BLC
Photos By Theresa Najera/The Brownsville Herald