Parents improve kids’ reading skills

By GRACE THORNTON / Special for the Reporter

HOOVER – No mother likes to hear that her son can’t pass kindergarten. Lilia Mercado, an Inverness resident, can vouch for that.

But it’s doubtful she’ll have to hear it again, thanks to the Toyota Family Literacy Program (TFLP) put on by the Literacy Council.

Mercado, who is originally from Mexico, comes to her son Kevin’s school, Inverness Elementary, every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and brings her 4-year-old son Yahir with her.

Through a childcare partnership with the Greystone YMCA, Yahir learns his colors, numbers, letters and other needed skills to prepare him for kindergarten while Lilia gets some tips of her own – how to help Kevin, then later Yahir, through kindergarten.

“I’ve learned some English and how to help my children with school,” Mercado said.

And that, she noted, has made a huge difference.

“The Toyota Family Literacy Program deals primarily with immigrants who don’t understand the education system here in the United States,” said Jackie Wuska, executive director of the Literacy Council. “It ensures not only that the parents get an education but also that they learn how to be teachers at home.”

The parents go in and observe their children in the classroom, then go back to their own classroom and discuss ways they can help children with what they are studying, said Sue Seay, TFLP teacher at Inverness Elementary.

“It’s different in other countries – parents aren’t always expected or even desired to be involved in their children’s education the way they are here. That’s why we offer the parenting skills in addition to English classes, we feel both are important for advancing literacy,” Seay said. “Lilia is doing excellent – and continuing to do so. It’s an ongoing process for her, her children and the others in the program.”

Wuska said the program is successful because of people like Mercado and the fact that the grant-funded program gets strong support from the community.

And it’s so successful, Seay added, that another TFLP will kick off in Alabaster as early as late January or early February with the help of the YMCA there.

“The partnership with the YMCA allows the parents to have childcare while they attend the family literacy classes,” Seay said, noting that Lilia is one who had originally been forced to drop out of the program until the childcare was made available.

“It’s a great situation – the children who come are bright, curious and adorable and making great strides,” she said.

For more information, visit http://www.literacy-council.org