To read, leer, lire
Memories of being read classics such as "Goodnight Moon" and "Where the Wild Things Are" on our parents' laps, resonant voices rumbling comfortably against our young backs, fill the mental scrapbook of not only English speaking families, but of Francophiles, Spanish and Arabic speakers as well.
Unfortunately, bilingual books were in short supply in the Allentown area, preventing families from sharing the joy of reading and the development of literacy for the 40 percent of residents who speak a different language at home.
Now, thanks to the Literacy Center, the Allentown Public Library, the United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley and United Way's Women's Leadership Coalition, the diverse population can enjoy titles ranging from "Buenas Noches, Luna" and "Donde Viven Los Monstruos" to bilingual versions of "The Hunger Games" and the "Harry Potter" series.
To make the program financially possible, the Kiwanis Club of Emmaus funded a grant, and the Woman's Leadership Coalition donated $30,000 to supplement Allentown Public Library with a plethora of books in French, Spanish and Arabic to increase overall family literacy and reading rates in the area.
"WLC is committed to making a difference in the lives of women and children in the Lehigh Valley," Donna Haggerty, president of WLC said. "Adopting family literacy as a new signature project for our council was important to our members and we are so pleased to to be in a partnership with the Literacy Center to expand these endeavors."
So far, more than 400 books in languages other than English have been purchased.
Allentown Public Library Director Renee Haines commented on the program.
"This is a great collaboration and we are thrilled to be part of this effort," Haines said. "Early literacy has always been a focus of our library's service, but as the demographics of our community change, it becomes increasingly difficult to meet the needs of every user.
"Together we can provide early literacy programming that impacts an even wider range of people than the library alone might not have normally reached, in languages that we might not otherwise have been able to accommodate.
"We are building a collection within the library that reflects the diversity of the community and can support bilingual families in their efforts to make reading and learning part of their every-day lives."
In addition to increasing the number of non-English children's books, a blooming program through the Literacy Center, including story time and numerous literacy based child/parent activites, will promote student's readiness for school and emphasize home language skills to build a scaffold to learn English and improve reading skills.
The program will maximize both parent and children's literacy skill gains, seeing as multi-language books will be used for The Literacy Center's Family Literacy classes.
When the Literacy Center inquired why their adult learners wanted to learn or improve their English, two of the most common answers were "to help their children with schoolwork" and "to be able to speak to children's teachers."
The development of auditory comprehension and expressive communication through effective forms of parental involvement found in the program and learning environment at the Allentown Library will ensure bilingual families are receiving all the neccessary literacy expertise they and their children need to succeed.
Stephanie Fisher, with the Family Literacy Center, volunteered as an English language teacher and a transition counselor to help non-English speakers build their skills to move on and up with their careers, whether it be with higher education or in the work force, before joining the Literacy Center.
Fisher spoke at the announcement of the program Aug. 21, telling families it was important to remember to read to their children. Doing so makes little ones feel important, and serves as an inspiration for kids to strive for a better education, Fisher said.
"The Literacy Center's educational instruction helps reduce [a 30 million word] gap [between professional families and families on welfare] by increasing the educational and resource level of parents, providing the tools and support needed to prepare their children for school," Robin A. Flores, with developments and grants for the Literacy Center, wrote in a press release. "It [the program] will also increase the parents' level of English which will open doors to obtain better paying employment, reduce the level of poverty, and improve the quality of life for their family."
To improve the quality of living and learning in your diverse Allentown community and to show support for the efforts of the partnership's program, stop by the Allentown Library to read, leer, lire!