Family Literacy Night

February 10, 2016 3:13 pm Published by

One of our goals for JBFC in 2016 is to maximize our impact. We know our model works – we see its impact on poverty alleviation daily through refuge, education, healthcare, and our permaculture farm. This year, we want to take it to the next level. With your help, we want to impact more children, more families, and more communities.

Thanks to a group of volunteers from Sarah Lawrence College and their wonderful professor we are doing just that with our literacy program.

You have helped us outfit our library over the last three years with thousands of books. Our library currently serves more than 320 students enrolled at JBFC’s Joseph & Mary Schools, our residential girls and staff, it is seldom used by anyone else. Thanks to your generosity, we have the ONLY lending library for miles around. This year, we wanted to open our doors to the community. A major 2016 goal for our Office of Student Development is to improve literacy in our community by expanding access to our library and its services.

Modeled on a project conducted in New York and Zimbabwe, Sarah Lawrence professor, Kim Ferguson, has worked closely with our staff to develop a “Family Literacy Program” at Joseph and Mary School.

We’re piloting the program with our second grade students, their teachers, and their families. The program aims to engage parents in their children’s education, provide parents with the skills they need to support their children academically at home, identify barriers to literacy in the community, and expand access to Joseph and Mary’s 3,500 book library, while ultimately improving literacy in our community.

After the completion of the pilot program this month, our local staff and students will continue to run the program through each consecutive grade until all families at our school have been included in the “Family Literacy Program.” Simply put, not only will all of our students have a better understanding of how to use the library by the end of this year but so will their parents, guardians, and siblings.

The program has already seen some major successes. Heading into our fourth week of the program, we have had almost complete buy-in from the parents and families of our second grade students. Through surveying and discussion we have been able to identify major barriers to literacy at home.

Using games, activities, and even arts and crafts, we have been able to show families how they can learn together at home, regardless of the medium used. We have seen our students, along with Sarah Lawrence students, engaged and active in a community-based program. 

We have seen children LOVE reading with their parents.

We have seen our library and its proud librarian, Mr. Simon, getting more visitors in the last month than we have in many months past.

Taking place every Wednesday evening from 4:00 – 6:30pm, the family literacy program is also being implemented in a sustainable way designed to allow our students and staff to continue the program for years to come.

Led by Joseph and Mary’s Dean of Students, Mr. Samo, the program has enlisted our Form Two secondary students to help guide, assess, and ultimately continue the program.

Our Form Two students are currently working hand in hand with Sarah Lawrence College students during the program to survey parents, play literacy games and activities with students, and analyze data collected throughout the program.

At the conclusion of the pilot program the Form Two students will help us evaluate the program and identify its challenges, successes, and ways to improve it moving forward. They will then be responsible for implementing the program with our third, fourth, and fifth graders.

Using a research curriculum designed by a Sarah Lawrence volunteer and using the data from the Family Literacy Program, we are hoping that our Form Two students can partner with a future group of volunteers to design, implement and evaluate a subsequent literacy-based community service program in the broader Kitongo community, which could impact hundreds more families.

While this program is bound to experience changes as it grows, one thing is clear: Joseph and Mary’s library, as well as Mr. Simon, just got a whole lot busier!

Blogger Seth Diemond is JBFC’s Chief Operating Officer in Tanzania.

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This post was written by Mainsprings