The Family Literacy Program began one year ago at A.K. Smiley Public Library and what a year it has been for all of us! The California State Library provided funding for the Family Literacy Program because research has shown that parents are their children’s first and most important teachers. Family Literacy introduces adult learners and their children to the value of reading together and helps parents develop skills to support their children’s education with fun and creative learning activities.
Prior to the Library’s closure in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Family Literacy Program participants met in person. Parents and children made new friends and supported each other as they learned new strategies to encourage a love of reading. Family Literacy coordinators, Joan Prehoda and Renee Kennedy, adapted the Family Literacy Program to online meetings using Zoom last May. These online meetings provided new and unanticipated opportunities for families to learn. Children as young as 5 years old learned how to take Zoom polls online and join breakout rooms.
Zoom meetings proceeded in much the same manner as the pre-pandemic meetings with story time, crafts, and activities. Topics included studying insects, where we learned the life cycle of a butterfly using the book The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle and made symmetrical butterfly art. Families learned about gardening, when they read the book Growing Vegetable Soup by Lois Ehlert and then planted bean and sunflower seeds in their gardens and prepared vegetable soup to eat, sending in photos of their growing seedlings and soup creations. One mom even sent a picture of her daughter helping to wash the dishes after dinner. They read Mouse Paint by Ellen Sholl Walsh, learned basic color theory, and practiced blending primary colors to create secondary colors. With each activity, families received a book to add to their home libraries and materials for family activities. Other books provided this year include Brown Bear, Brown Bear by Eric Carle, The Family Book by Todd Parr, Pumpkin Circle by George Levenson, Not a Box by Antoinette Portis, and more.
Even though the Zoom meetings were successful, families were excited to return to in-person meetings at A.K. Smiley Public Library where they met outdoors in the Children’s Garden in a socially distanced and safe way. This provided an opportunity for families to connect with one another safely from across the garden.
At the November meeting families discussed the concept of emotions and appropriate ways for their children to express those feelings. Families read The Way I Feel by Janan Cain and asked the children to use playdough on a face mat to recreate several different feelings. The families were provided with an emotions chart to stimulate conversation between parent and child about how they are feeling. A parent said, “I’ll use the chart all the time with my family members, because it is important to express feelings so I can help them.” Another parent commented, “This class helped my children feel more comfortable to talk about their feelings and know everyone has different feelings.”
The Family Literacy Program continues to meet monthly in a hybrid format with parent meetings provided over Zoom and in-person family literacy meetings in the garden when the weather permits and via Zoom during the cold winter months.
Special thanks are owed to instructors Joan Prehoda and Renee Kennedy who learned new teaching methods to successfully adapt to social distancing requirements. We congratulate the amazing families who have grown in unexpected ways this year and who continue to value and support their children’s education even as they face the challenges presented by the COVID pandemic.
The Family Literacy Program is one component of the Redlands Adult Literacy Program. Adult literacy activities continue to thrive even during the pandemic. If you are interested in becoming a tutor or if you would like help in reading and writing, please call Diane Shimota, adult literacy coordinator, at 909-798-7565, ext. 4138 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. The literacy program is free to all participants.
The holidays are a great time to pick out a new book and travel via the author’s story. Check out the adult literacy collection – we have books for all ages, books on CD and Playaway, and materials that can assist students during this period of remote learning.