Family literacy program to allow parents to learn, grow alongside their students

The Huntsville School District and the Northark Adult Education Program are offering parents a chance to learn alongside their children.

Starting this year, a family literacy program will be offered for parents of students ages pre-K through fifth-grade. The class will be held Monday-Thursday, 8 a.m. until noon, at the Huntsville Intermediate School.

“This is a pilot program from the state,” said Lori Hawkins, who will teach the class. “It’s the first ABE program, which is Adult Basic Education.”

The program is free for eligible parents, and will offer free childcare for children not yet school-aged. Each class will last nine weeks.

“[Huntsville Intermediate Principal Kenena Pelfrey] is using some of her Title I money for childcare for parents who sign up, which is a very cool thing,” Hawkins said. “That doesn’t get offered very often.”

Hawkins said classes haven’t been determined yet, but they’ll mostly center on reading and writing. Other times, the class may offer life skills, such as how to build a resume or how to open a checking account.

“Reading and writing is what I think the majority of our time is going to be spent on,” she said. “We’re also going to have a lot of guest speakers from the county. Just depending on what people need, we’ll have them in – if they wanted to learn how to open a checking account, we’ll have someone come in and talk about that.

“Whatever they’re needing, we’re going to find someone to come in and talk to them about that.”

While NorthArk currently offers GED prep courses already, officials said the program at the school will differ in that it will also teach life skills and allow students to learn alongside their children. At times, parents will be encouraged to sit in their child’s classroom and experience the same lessons.

“They will have the opportunity to participate in their child’s learning as far as observing what’s going on in the classroom, and opening up that dialogue with the child and the teacher and the parent,” said Madison County Adult Education director Julie Garrett. “It’s been observed that students who struggle in school sometimes have parents who may have struggled, or parents who aren’t sure how to help their child. So this is not only helping the parent increase his or her skills, but it will help in essence the child, because when a parent is more involved in the child’s learning, it’s known that the child does better.”

That, too, could have benefits for the children, Hawkins said.

“I think it’s going to be really inspiring for kids to see their parents be interested in their education,” Hawkins said. “I think we’re going to see growth in the children ... if their parents are taking an interest, they’re going to be more excited and want to do better. That’s my favorite part.”

Hawkins stressed that the program may be utilized by parents who didn’t graduate high school, or parents who simply want to learn what their children are learning. Additionally, the program could be used as a stepping stone for further education.

“Huntsville has a high poverty level, and I’m just hoping that through the program, we can help parents be able to further themselves,” Hawkins said. “If they want to go to college, this can be a stepping stone for college, or if they’re wanting to get their CNA license, this could be a stepping stone for that.”

Participants are required to do GED testing upon entry, which Hawkins said is for data collection to show growth at the end of the program. She added that participants may not be required to attend every day.

“They said what we would do is kind of break it up, where they may come in Monday and Wednesday, or Tuesday and Thursday, especially depending on who signs up,” Hawkins said. “If they’re needing English classes, then we’ll do English classes based on whatever they decide to do.

“We’re going to start testing next Monday, and then we’ll start classes the following Monday.”

For more information, contact Pelfrey at 479-738-6228 or Garrett at 870-391-3365.

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