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March Community Game Changer

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Family Literacy Program instructor Maureen Rudy works with adult students who are learning English. The program provides literacy services to more than 500 adults and children. Photo by Dave Neligh

MSU Denver literacy program offers the gift of language

By Doug McPherson

Adriann Wycoff tells the story of Claudia Zubia, a Denver-area mother of five who used to be afraid to ask teachers questions about her children because her English was weak.

Now that fear has melted away. Today Zubia is learning English, is speaking with teachers and even helping her kids with their homework.

It’s a life-changing outcome thanks to the Family Literacy Program offered through Metropolitan State University of Denver.

The program provides adult classroom instruction in Spanish-language GED preparation and English as a second language. Through the Parents as Teachers initiative, the literacy program also puts trained specialists into homes to teach families. The Family Literacy Program offers a preschool literacy program as well.

“Parents want what’s best for their children, and the parents become empowered to help their children learn as they learn more themselves,” Wycoff says. “And when they learn that they can improve their literacy, it really makes an impact.”

It’s that impact that’s kept Wycoff happily on the job for more than two decades. “Everybody has their own ideas of what will save the world. I believe education will, and literacy is the key to education.”

For Wycoff, the reason the literacy program is successful is its emphasis on the family. “Family literacy transforms families, and families transform communities.”

Wycoff adds that she has “phenomenal admiration and respect” for adult learners. “My respect is deep, very deep. They have jobs, families and many of them are caring for their own parents, too. They’re juggling multiple responsibilities, but they know education is important and they make time to learn and work with their families.”

The Family Literacy Program has served thousands of people since it was started in 1994. Last year 236 adults and 330 children received literacy program services; 85 percent of students are Latino, and 13 percent are African or African American.

In September 2014, the National Center for Families Learning gave the center a three-year, $175,000 Toyota Family Learning grant to expand offerings, making parents leaders and mentors in their communities. Parents will engage in service learning projects and help other parents start a family-to-family mentoring program.

Arthur Campa, associate dean at the MSU Denver College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, says the Family Literacy Program (FLP) fulfills an important need. “The community needs the kinds of programming FLP offers. The services aren’t otherwise available,” he says.

Zubia, for one, is thankful. According to Wycoff, she’s become a literacy cheerleader in her home, and each of her children has to read every day and report to her what they read.

“We just have to remember, children are a part of families, so if you want to help the child, you have to help the family,” Wycoff says.

Content Provided By Metropolitan State University of Denver

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