Unique Education Program Brings Together Parents, Students

At El Centrito in California, children and their parents are part of the Family Literacy Cooperative which allows parents to attend adult school to learn English while leaving their children in a cooperative preschool environment. Parents are required to help out at the preschool on the 5th day after attending adult school for 4 days a week. Through a rotation of parents, there is always at least one parent around to help the teacher in each class, where the children learn socializing skills as well as daily lessons. Running from June to August, the program serves 24 children ages 2 to 3 and their mostly Spanish-speaking parents, who attend classes two blocks away at the Oxnard Adult School.

"What we're able to do is take motivated … parents that don't have an opportunity to study the English language or GED and create a program that allows them to," said Joseph Castaneda, interim executive director of El Centrito.

As Castaneda puts it, because of the responsibilities that come with raising children, it is difficult for most parents to stay dedicated to their studies. In addition, the parents are allowed by the program the chance to study while at the same time offering their children a preschool program. Castaneda was told by one parent, whose child had a heart condition, that learning English meant being able to keep her daughter healthy. The ability to help their kids with homework or the chance to practice a career they trained in was the reason for other parents. The program has greatly benefited Alba Escalante's 3-year-old son, Limberth, who has a speech impediment. According to her, through lessons in the program, he's slowly improved his speech and has gained more confidence.

"It's a great program for me and my boy," said Escalante, who has been with the program for two years. "It's great because the kids learn and so do we."

According to James Barragan of The Los Angeles Times, $424,500 was granted to local literacy programs this year as a result of the Los Angeles Times Holiday Campaign, through the generosity of Times readers and a match by the McCormick Foundation. Contributions support established literacy programs run by nonprofit organizations that serve low-income children, adults and families who are reading below grade levels, at risk of illiteracy or who have limited English proficiency.

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