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Program puts focus on literacy
Thursday, April 8, 2004

By Cindy Votruba
Independent Staff Writer

GHENT — On Tuesday night, the Family Literacy program had its first-ever evening event, complete with a potluck of ethnic foods and the Head Start students singing “The Wheels on the Bus.”

Celebrating its fourth year, the Family Literacy program of Lyon County has grown dramatically, serving many minority families.

The Family Literacy program is a collaborative partnership of Head Start, Early Childhood Family Education and Adult Basic Education, said program coordinator Paulette Hanson.

In the first year, the program was in the Lyon County Courthouse. It moved into St. Eloi’s School a year later, breathing new life into the building.
Hanson said the program is currently serving 17 families, representing four cultures — Nepalese, Ethiopian, Somali and Hispanic. Hanson said all of the classrooms at St. Eloi School are in use, including a storeroom.

Classes offered through the Family Literacy program are Early Childhood Family Education, parent education and Head Start. Head Start is offered on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Fourteen children are in Head Start and 12 are in ECFE.

The Family Literacy program focuses on reading in the classroom and at home, Hanson said.

“The main goal is the parents are the most important teacher to the child,” Hanson said.

Hanson said the adult classes teach reading, math and employability.

Jennifer Schneringer is the Head Start teacher for the program. She said the minority students basically learn the same things as all the Head Start children.

“(Except) we work a little more with vocabulary,” Schneringer said.

Kim Steinbronn teaches the parent education classes.

“They want to learn American foods,” Steinbronn said.

Bonnie Ludeman from the University of Minnesota Extension office comes in once a month to various recipes, Steinbronn said, and the parents have also learned about recycling and winter survival.

The class has also talked about severe summer weather, Steinbronn said.

“We talked about tornados and floods and things,” Steinbronn said.
Steinbronn and Schneringer

It was the parents’ ideas to set a reading goal, said Steinbronn and Schneringer, 400 books in eight weeks.

The parents and children have already surpassed their goal, reading the 400 books in half the time.

“They’re keeping track (of their progress) on little sheets of paper,” Steinbronn said.

And both parents and children have become voracious readers, the teachers said.

“They take at least two books a day,” Steinbronn said.

Schneringer said the mothers are also going to the Marshall Lyon County library to pick out books.
Leticia Valdez of Lynd is part of the Family Literacy program, starting just this October. She has two sons, Alan, who is in kindergarten and Jordan, who is in the Head Start program. Through her classwork, Leticia said she is working on her English skills.

Mercedes Gutierrez of Lynd and her four children have been involved in the Family Literacy program. Her two older girls, Maria and Bertha, have already gone through Head Start.

Mercedes said at St. Eloi’s, she spends 45 minutes in the morning with her children and then both mom and the children go onto their separate classes.

“We get a chance to learn more English,” Mercedes said.

Mercedes is working toward her GED.

“The told me I just need to take the test,” Mercedes Gutierrez said.

Bertha is a first-grader at Lynd Public School, and she enjoys reading any kind of books

“Sometimes I read to her (my mom),” Bertha said.

“She loves books,” Mercedes said.

“We keep on learning to read at our school,” Bertha said.


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