Family Literacy Program gives families the opportunity to thrive.
The Family Literacy Program, hosted by White Bear Lake Area (WBLA) Early Childhood Education at Normandy Park Early Childhood Center, aims to meet families where they’re at in the English language learning process.
The program, run in partnership with Harmony Learning Center, welcomes local families whose first language is not English and works to increase literacy through three main components: parent-child time, separate child and parent learning time, and parent and family education. In two classes that meet twice per week, parents are encouraged to join their children in a play-based language learning curriculum.
Local mother Angelica Reyes says of her son’s experience in the program, “It’s great to see him grow. He’s so much more confident since we’ve joined these classes.”
The parent-child time focuses on large motor skills, such as painting and arts and crafts, and lots of toys to promote play-based learning. “We are just really intentional about having parents have that special time with their children in our classroom,” says Amy Ottaviani, early childhood family education teacher, parent educator and educational equity specialist.
The classroom hosts families with varying language skill levels. Some families are focused on learning the basics of English, whereas others are refining grammar and vocabulary skills. “The most important thing for us is we are teaching them what they want to learn. We are open to anything, and if they want to learn it, we’ll teach it,” Ottaviani says.
All families currently in the family literacy program are first generation immigrants. In autumn of 2022, the program had families hailing from Afghanistan, China, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Kenya, Mexico, Somalia and Ukraine. The program helps to fill a need in the district, which serves students and families who speak 59 home languages in addition to English.
Families are often able to form bonds through shared experiences. The program has set days when families share stories and food from their cultures with each other.
“I was so happy when Amy invited me to the class,” Reyes says. “… I really like it because I’ve met many moms from different countries, and they have similar problems to me. It’s been really great.”
WBLA Early Childhood Programs,
2482 East County Road F;
White Bear Lake Area Schools