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Expansion of Family Literacy Centers

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The National Center for Family Literacy has announced that it will expand its family literacy centers for Hispanic and immigrant families to five new cities. They are: Las Vegas, Las Cruces, N.M.; Long Beach, Calif.; Memphis, Tenn.; and Springdale, Ark. The center already operates family literacy centers in 20 cities in partnership with Toyota.

Sharon Darling, the founder of the National Center for Family Literacy, which is based in Louisville, Ky., explained to me that through the program parents typically spend several half-days per week at their child's school. The program targets parents of children in kindergarten through 3rd grades. The parents take English-as-a-second-language classes and also visit their child's classes for part of the day. "They sit right with their children and participate," said Ms. Darling.

The program draws mostly mothers, Ms. Darling said, noting that in the Hispanic community a fair number of mothers are homemakers and are available to participate because they don't work during the day. Most of the family literacy centers have waiting lists for mothers who want to participate.

She acknowledged that it would also make sense to have more night programs in schools, particularly for fathers who work during the day, but that isn't in the scope of her organization's work. Ms. Darling said that schools often use their own resources to add night programs after they have a daytime family literacy center up and running. In January, the center will begin taking grant applications for the next expansion of family literacy centers.

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These centers are important but it would be nice if they made sure they had certified ESOL teachers and nice places for the schools. In Rochester, NY, the Family Learning Center is in an abandoned old factory building that in unattractive and while students can study English during the morning, the ones on welfare and food stamps have to spend the afternoon in WEP program (Work Experience Program) to pay off their food stamps by cleaning the school. It's degrading and prevents people from studying English further and probably demotivates people from coming.

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