Title

Reaching English Learner (EL) Families Through a Bilingual Family Literacy Program

First Presenter's Institution

Tuscaloosa City Schools

Second Presenter's Institution

Tuscaloosa City Schools

Third Presenter's Institution

Northwest Exterminating

Fourth Presenter's Institution

N/A

Fifth Presenter's Institution

N/A

Location

Session 7 (Plimsoll)

Strand #1

Family & Community

Strand #2

Social & Emotional Skills

Relevance

The number of English learners (ELs) in U.S. schools is steadily increasing. According to the U.S. Department of Education, English learners are a growing part of the K–12 student population. Between the 2009–10 and 2014–15 school years, the percentage of EL students increased in more than half of the states, with increases of over 40 percent in five states. They often come from groups that have been marginalized. EL students are at an increased risk of incorrect labeling, limited resources and not completing high school.

This Bilingual Family Literacy Program is designed to begin bridging the gaps between home and school by helping EL families build literacy skills at home that can be applied in the classroom. This program focuses on parents learning, developing and implementing literacy skills at home in order for EL students to feel successful in the classroom and empowering parents to become active participants in their child’s learning experience. Parents who participate in this program receive literacy training in their native language by English as a Second Language (ESL) Specialists. The literacy training not only promotes early literacy skills for students, but it also validates the parents’ knowledge and experiences, the home language, and the family’s culture. Families are invited to participate in Family Literacy Night, a literacy-based event that provides parents an environment to implement and practice strategies that promote literacy skills, with the guidance of ESL Specialists, teachers and other school personnel. All participating families receive bilingual age-appropriate books to add to a home library, community resources and information, and an opportunity to connect with other families, teachers and community members.

This Bilingual Family Literacy Program meets two strands in the area of Home and Heart. Involving EL parents as a part of the school culture may sometimes be difficult to achieve. Through this Bilingual Family Literacy Program, parents are invited into schools, welcomed by school personnel, and receive literacy training in their native language. By inviting parents to participate in our Bilingual Family Literacy Program, parents feel more welcome in school buildings thus meeting the social and emotional needs of EL students. We feel that the areas of heart and home go hand in hand. You cannot have one without the other.

Brief Program Description

We will discuss the development, implementation and impact of our Bilingual Family Literacy Program, highlighting the importance of the home and school connection through relationship building. The target audience includes anyone interested in increasing family engagement in schools. Participants will begin planning their own family literacy program and leave with planning guides and next steps for putting a program in place.

Summary

Through this interactive presentation, participants will have the opportunity to gain knowledge of increasing EL family engagement through a Bilingual Family Literacy Program. Participants of this presentation will be guided through the steps of developing and implementing a Bilingual Family Literacy Program. Participants will receive resources, planning guides and evidence of impact through parent and stakeholder videos.

Participants will engage in conversations about developing and maintaining a successful Family Literacy Program. Discussions will include program development, budgeting and funding, community resources and support, and parent engagement in the program. Participants will view video documentation from families about their experience in attending the program and how this program helped them learn ways that they as parents could begin to develop early literacy in the home language that can benefit children when they begin learning to read in English. Video documentation also shows how parents learned ways to support students with skills that can be transferred from school to home.

During the presentation, participants will have an opportunity to begin developing a working model of how to implement a Family Literacy Program within their own school community. They will leave with a foundation for their own program including prospective program goals and first steps to begin program development and implementation.

Evidence

Second Language Acquisition (SLA) research and learning theory are both rich with studies that support the need for parents to help their children get an early start on literacy through activities in the home such as reading and singing together in the home language from an early age. Parent engagement in school activities, parental attitudes towards literacy and towards school in general, and parent support of school in the home, and the concept of additive bilingualism are all woven into a plethora of studies.

In addition to SLA research and learning theory, federal guidelines also support the need for programs such as ours. ESSA guidelines call for parent and family engagement in schools and require that schools conduct outreach to all parents and family members. By providing opportunities for English learner parents to engage in a bilingual family literacy program, our district is reaching out to a group that might otherwise be unable to participate in family engagement activities offered by their schools. ESSA calls for parent input, which is an integral part of our program. Additionally, The U.S. Department of Education’s website states, “Under the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act, Title II of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998, family literacy programs integrate (1) interactive literacy activities between parent and child; (2) training in parenting activities; (3) literacy training that leads to economic self-sufficiency; (4) age appropriate education to prepare children for success in school and life experiences.” Our bilingual family literacy program meets these guidelines.

Evidence of program effectiveness is also shown through videos of parents who have participated in the Bilingual Family Literacy Program. Parents discuss the importance of the home to school connection and the various benefits that are gained through participation of a Bilingual Family Literacy Program.

Format

Individual Presentation

Biographical Sketch

Samantha Shuler’s journey as an educator began in 2009 when she was the Environmental Educator for The Humboldt Bay National Refuge, where she taught at over 50 different schools in the area. In 2012 she relocated to Eufaula Alabama, where she served as a substitute for all Eufaula City Schools while she obtained a Master’s Degree in Elementary Education. Upon graduation from Troy University, Samantha began working as an ESL teaching assistant for Dothan City Schools. Now as an ESL Specialist for Tuscaloosa City Schools, she serves three elementary schools and one middle school working with teachers of students and their parents who speak multiple languages. Samantha and her colleague Katie Harrison, recently launched a district wide Bilingual Family Literacy Program, that focuses on building literacy skills at home that can be applied in the classroom.

Presenter Katie Harrison has 17 years of experience as an educator, working in schools with high levels of poverty. Of those 17 years, 15 have included work with English learners and 10 have been specifically in the area of English as a Second Language. As an ESL Specialist for the Tuscaloosa City Schools, she serves multiple schools with students representing over 40 languages and numerous countries of origin. Advocating for EL students and their families is a fundamental part of her work as an ESL Specialist.

Presenter Kristen Milligan is Co-Director of the Good Deeds Team at Northwest Exterminating. Since 2015, The Good Deeds Team has made it their mission to empower their teammates and families to be actively involved in the communities that they serve. As of 2017 they are volunteering in 18 different schools in Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, and South Carolina. The Good Deeds Team at Northwest began a Book Initiative in 2015 that has given away more than 3,600 books to children who do not have books on their reading level. They piloted a Northwest Ambassador Program for at-risk 5th graders to work on Leadership and Altruism within their communities. With the help of Life Science Teachers, they are able to bring relevant and standard based learning opportunities to elementary and middle schools throughout the states of Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, and South Carolina.

Keyword Descriptors

EL, Family Literacy, Parent Engagement, Family Literacy Program

Presentation Year

2019

Start Date

3-5-2019 2:45 PM

End Date

3-5-2019 4:00 PM

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Mar 5th, 2:45 PM Mar 5th, 4:00 PM

Reaching English Learner (EL) Families Through a Bilingual Family Literacy Program

Session 7 (Plimsoll)

We will discuss the development, implementation and impact of our Bilingual Family Literacy Program, highlighting the importance of the home and school connection through relationship building. The target audience includes anyone interested in increasing family engagement in schools. Participants will begin planning their own family literacy program and leave with planning guides and next steps for putting a program in place.