Wendy arrived in 2008 from Honduras. She couldn’t speak, write or read English. She experienced culture shock and found it difficult at first not knowing the language. She found it especially frustrating not being able to communicate with her children’s teachers and the school administration. Wendy set some goals for herself. She would learn the language, get a driver’s license, find a job to help her family and eventually get her United States citizenship. She soon received her driver’s license and got a night time job in a party favors factory. In 2014, Wendy enrolled in the Family Literacy program at Vita. She came to school during the day and worked at night. She worked hard to improve her English and now has progressed to an advanced ESL class. She is much more comfortable communicating in her children’s school and all other areas of her life. This past January, Wendy passed her U.S. citizenship exam. She is eagerly anticipating her swearing in ceremony. She dreams of becoming a real estate salesperson one day.
The Family Literacy Program offers Interactive Literacy Activities as one of its components. Our weekly three-hour sessions provide an opportunity for mothers and children to make a connection in their learning experience. Age-appropriate activities are stimulating and enjoyable when done with a parent. Benefits of ILA are mutual and include increased confidence, skill development and growth of a parent-child bond.
Vita held “Power of Moms” year-end celebrations at its two Family Literacy class locations in Bristol Township and Centennial school districts. The “Power of Moms” theme is in recognition of the research findings that “a mother’s literacy level is the greatest predictor of a child’s success in school.” Each program included speeches by students, the presentation of attendance and achievement certificates, and an “around the world feast” prepared by the students. Projects and artwork made by students and their families were on display. One of the student speakers, who has two young children who attend the program with her, said, “I want to thank each person that makes Vita Family Literacy possible. It is a big challenge learning English, but not impossible. My children are learning so much. Everyday my daughter gets up and says, ’Wake up everybody. Let’s go to school!’”
Vita honored its valued volunteers at a “Brunch with the Vita Bunch,” held on April 30th at the American Legion in Newtown. It was a celebration to recognize Vita’s Literacy, ESL, and Decisions tutors for their hard work, dedication, and commitment to making a real difference in the lives of Vita’s students. Also honored were Vita’s office volunteer and all-volunteer Board of Directors.
Over 90 people attended the brunch. The program was well received. It included student and tutor panelists talking about the impact the tutoring program makes on both students and tutors. Executive Director Linda Wolfson thanked the volunteers for their over 4,000 hours of donated time. She said,” You’re more important than ever. You make it possible to provide individual programming for those who may not benefit from a classroom situation. You offer empathy without crossing boundaries. You teach skills that have the potential to change the lives of your students and the lives of their families. You provide the foundation for further education and training. You offer hope to those whose lives, at times, seem overwhelming.”
Lister is a student participating in one of Vita’s small tutoring groups at the Levittown Library. He is a dedicated student who is always prepared and willing to do the work required for each class. Lister has always been open to learning and enjoys going to the library to read biographies and books about other subjects that interest him. He has had several careers, first as an Army infantryman, then working for Conrail and Amtrak, and later at a chicken processing plant. Instead of relaxing in his retirement, Lister has set his sights on getting a job working with the elderly. Lister knew he needed to improve his academic skills to attain this next career goal, so he reached out to Vita. He reports that his current tutors, Sheryl and Bailey, have been very helpful to him and are doing a great job with his instruction. The tutors say that Lister is an inspirational life-long learner.
New Centennial School District Superintendent Dr. David Baugh paid a visit to Vita’s Family Literacy program, which is held in collaboration with the school district at its administration building in Warminster. He met with Family Literacy Instructor Iryna Yefimenko and Family Literacy Teaching Assistant Andrea Kim to introduce himself and share that he is informed about the importance of the program and values the work Vita is doing to help Centennial ESL families. He then stopped by the Family Literacy class to meet and interact with the students.
Family Literacy is a program to assist English as a Second Language parents in gaining the literacy and parenting skills they need to become full partners in the educational development of their young children. It promotes parents’ involvement in their children’s education as their children’s first teachers. Vita also collaborates with Centennial School District to offer Basic Literacy, ESL, and GED preparation evening classes for adults at William Tennent High School.
Children’s book author Veronica Nagorny did an interactive book reading at Vita’s Centennial summer Family Literacy class in Warminster. She read her duck-themed stories, while an image of the book was projected so that the class could see the pages. Both parents and children enjoyed the whimsical stories. The children then colored images of scenes from her books that she had printed for them. Titles of her books include “Ducks in Socks,” “Duck-Upations,” and “Ootka Island.”
Vita is partnering with the Penn State Extension Nutrition Links to teach students enrolled in our Doylestown ESL classes how to make healthy nutrition choices for their families. Students learn how to stretch their food dollars, plan and prepare tasty healthful meals, read and understand food labels, and store and preserve food safely. Kim Patterson, a nutrition education advisor from Penn State Extension, is leading the classes.
Alex, who is from Moldova, comes to each ESL class with a question for me. Is American like English? What is the difference between “speak” and “talk”? When we were discussing family member vocabulary, he indicated that he had no brothers or sisters. I made some comment about how being an only child must be nice. After class, dictionary in hand, Alex came to me and made me understand that he was abandoned in a Russian orphanage as an infant and that he grew up there. My face must have told him my response. “It’s good,” he said, “best part is green card in U.S. and now learn English to become real American.” I think he already is. His testing showed a two-level jump, and his curiosity about the language continues.
The Family Fun art show, featuring posters made by the families in Vita’s Family Literacy program, was part of the classes’ year end celebration. Family Literacy helps English as a Second Language parents gain the literacy and parenting skills they need to become full partners in the educational development of their young children through family-centered education programming.