GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A large grant will help the Literacy Center of West Michigan expand a program that gives parents the tools to better help their school-aged children succeed.

The program is called the Family Literacy Program.

“The heart of our program is really building community and helping parents invest in their families,” program director Bree Straayer said.

The Family Literacy Program gets parents back into classrooms — often inside their child’s own school — to help bridge language barriers between parents and the community their children are growing up in.

“The hope with that is as parents are in the school taking classes for themselves that they become more comfortable in that school location, that they get more immersed in their child’s education and also their children get the chance to see them engaging in lifelong learning,” Straayer said.

The Family Literacy Program. (Jeff Hage/Green Frog)
The Family Literacy Program. (Jeff Hage/Green Frog)

Avelina Sosa, a mother of four, has been with the program for two years.

“This is important practice for language. This a good program. This program, the Literary Center,” Sosa said.

She said working with a partner on her English speaking and writing has helped her navigate conversations during doctors’ appointments, parent-teacher conferences and at the store.

“We are adaptable to the needs of adults. We design our programs to meet functional needs of adults in their lives,” Literacy Center Executive Director Wendy Falb said.

Falb said a recent $110,000 grant from the Wege Foundation will allow the program to continue and expand.

“Literacy is a two-generation project. It doesn’t just live with the child. Schools can’t do it alone. We absolutely have to support families supporting their children,” Falb said.

Family Literacy Program is helping 200 parents a year is within Grand Rapids, Godfrey-Lee, and Godwin Heights Public Schools, Hope Charter Academy and Head Start for Kent County. The program will expand to Kentwood Public Schools next year.

Classes are free. They’re in person, online or hybrid. Child care is provided and the program helps with computers for those who don’t have one.

“The further the parents get, it builds a foundation for their children and their children launchpad from wherever they are,” Straayer said.