Ashland families to benefit from literacy partnership

17 years ago

    ASHLAND, Maine – The Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy recently awarded $234,995 to Maine Family Literacy Initiative programs in 15 Maine communities including SAD 32 in Ashland.     Representatives from each program accepted their grant awards from Barbara Bush and Maine’s First Lady, Karen Baldacci, at a June 19 awards ceremony at the J. Richard Martin Community Center in Biddeford. Maine Family Literacy Initiative money supports programs that improve the reading skills of parents and their children, while developing solid literacy practices in the home.
“I’m so proud of the students and teachers who have participated in our Maine Family Literacy Initiative,” said Bush, honorary chairperson of the Foundation. “They have accomplished so much over the past 12 years. We know that thousands of parents and children are now able to share the pleasure, as well as the benefits of reading as a result of their hard work in the 166 family literacy programs funded by the Maine Family Literacy Initiative so far.”
“Reading holds the key to success in life,” said Baldacci. “Barbara Bush has devoted many years of work to promote and increase family literacy. I would like to thank and honor her on behalf of the people of the state of Maine for her dedication to such a worthy cause.”
Eight winning grants of approximately $25,000 were chosen this year from applications submitted by libraries, community-based organizations, colleges, adult education, and public schools across the state to implement family literacy programs. These programs provide family literacy services that include adult literacy instruction, early childhood literacy instruction, and parent and child time for reading together.
According to Gene Bradbury, grant coordinator for SAD 32, Ashland’s “Families of Learners” serves a previously underserved area by bringing together Ashland Central School, SAD 32 Adult Education, Head Start, and Literacy Volunteers of Aroostook County to provide center, home-based, and extended year services to families with children in grades pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and one, or ages 4 to 6.
Last year, Families of Learners received a $5,000 planning grant to devise a literacy plan, and the $25,000 implementation grant will help get that plan off the ground.
“We are going to do a lot of work in the homes,” said Bradbury. “The Head Start program is going to serve the clients in the home, and we’re going to serve the parents through Adult Education and the Literacy Volunteers of Aroostook. We’ll do that both in the school and outside of the school in the home.
“Our objective is to work with people on literacy skills,” he said, “primarily reading skills.”
Bradbury said the program will be for families with at least one child below grade level as assessed by either the school or Head Start, depending on their age.
“We will have a screening for adults that are interested,” he said. “They could even be a high school graduate, but if their reading or math skills are below the eighth-grade level, we can serve them and their family. For adults to qualify though, there has to be at least one child below grade level and one parent who qualifies for the help. It has to be a parent-child combination.”
The Families of Learners program officially began July 1.
In addition to hiring a coordinator, Bradbury said he plans to hire “a master’s level literacy person to do some intensive one-on-one work with adults and kids.”
“There will also be specific goals that each family will help set … where they want to be,” he said, “and the coordinator we hire will meet with them periodically and assess how they’re doing on their goals and do they want to consider changing any of the goals. There will be constant family contact.”
Officials will begin recruiting clients in late August.
“Our pie in the sky numbers are between eight and 12 families,” said Bradbury. “If we get more, we’ll be tickled pink. If we get less, we may broaden the age group that we’re looking at.
“We’re going to have a supper for all families of students in pre-K, kindergarten and grade 1 and explain the program to them,” he said. “We’ll ask people to fill out a card with their name and phone number if they’re interested in more information. That way it will be more anonymous.”
Ashland’s literacy program is free to clients.
“We’re going to provide free daycare when the parents are at school for a meeting or for adult education,” Bradbury said. “We’ll even help with transportation if they need it.”
Bradbury praised the combined efforts of Ashland Central School, SAD 32 Adult Education, Head Start, and Literacy Volunteers of Aroostook.
“It took all four of us to get this deal done,” he said. “Every one of them bent over backwards. This truly was a team effort.”
The Maine Family Literacy Initiative has awarded 166 grants totaling of $2,787,855 in its 12-year history to develop or expand Maine family literacy programs. The Barbara Bush Foundation also funds family literacy initiatives in Texas, Florida, and Maryland, as well as through its annual national grant competition. As of June 2007, the Foundation, which was established in 1989, will have awarded nearly $30 million to build or expand more than 650 family literacy programs in 48 states and the District of Columbia.
An additional seven planning grants of $5,000 each were also awarded to communities to develop the partnerships and resources needed to implement a family literacy program next year. According to Becky Dyer, state director of adult education and family literacy for the Maine Department of Education, planning grants have proven to be an effective way to bring agencies together to begin talking about family literacy and identifying existing resources that could be used to support family literacy programming in their community.
Other communities that received Maine Family Literacy Initiative grants included Augusta, Windham, Madawaska, Wiscasset, Bangor, Standish, Rockland, Leeds, Saco, Gorham, Tenants Harbor, Mexico, Old Town, and Denmark.