Literacy Week: Bringing the World of Words to Families

When parents – especially mothers – have trouble reading, their children often do too. We can help!

By Ann Daniels, Families for Literacy Coordinator

If you have children, you’re surrounded by a world of words: On forms and flyers from school, instructions on toys, medicines and equipment, party invitations, homework your children want you to help with … But what if you struggle to read?

When parents – especially mothers – have trouble reading, their children often do too. According to the National Coalition for Literacy, studies show that a mom’s reading ability is the single best predictor of her kids’ success in school — more than race, ethnicity and family income. It’s also true that children from higher income homes hear 30 million more words by age 4 than children from lower income homes. Thirty million!

Families for Literacy, a program of Second Start at Oakland Library, works with low-literacy adults who have children to help close the 30-million-word-gap and make reading a family value. By starting with what parents know, including talking, singing, and playing, we’re giving parents the skill and confidence to read with their little ones and do other early education activities to boost the literacy skills of parents and children alike.

In addition to our monthly family literacy events and one-on-one coaching, Second Start works with Children’s Services and other library departments to make sure the library’s materials are easy to read. We’ve also begun a new class series: Literacy for Parents. The class teaches participants how to use children’s books to boost their reading skills and gain confidence so they can share these activities with their children and grandchildren.

We launched these classes at a re-entry program for men returning from prison. A shocking 75% of state and 59% of federal prisoners read below a 5th grade level and didn’t finish high school. The class series at Center Point Inc. helped participants bring books into the relationships they are re-forming with their children and grandchildren. Participants shared the books they loved most as children, discovered new books they enjoyed, and practiced ways to use ABC books and games for endless fun. It was a huge success.

Through Families for Literacy we’re bringing parents into the world of words, so they and their families can do even more as citizens of the world.

If you know someone who might benefit from Second Start and Families for Literacy, call us. Ask for Ann Daniels or Amy Sonnie: 510-238-3432.


The National Adult Education and Family Literacy Week, September 21-26, is sponsored by the National Coalition for Literacy. @NLCAdvocacy