Literacy program makes learning a family affair

NEIGHBORS

February 10, 1994|By MICHELLE HOFFMAN

"If you're going to reach success, or meet with success," says Marilyn Eyler, "you have to have the whole family involved" in the education process.

Mrs. Eyler is coordinator of the Even Start Family Literacy Program in Taneytown, which aims to teach families the skills they need to help them succeed in relationships at school and at work.

The program has been in existence nationally for five years. The Taneytown program has operated for the past four in a portable building at Northwest Middle School. It is financed by a federal grant through the Carroll County Public Schools Alternative Programs.

"We target families that have children between the ages of zero and 7," Mrs. Eyler said. "We are an early-intervention program. The first years of life are the most important as far as learning goes.

"We want the children to be ready for school when they enter the regular kindergarten. We want them ready to learn when they get there. The minute that child is born, that child starts learning from the person who is most involved with that child, and that is the parent.

"So what we do is make sure that parent understands that they are the most important person in that child's life. They are teaching that child."

Mrs. Eyler's staff consists of Dawn Bay, Louise Lustig, Sue Lysy, Barb Vrany, Debbie Pritchett and Marianne Earhart.

There are four components to the program: adult education, early childhood education, parent and child interaction, and parenting skills.

To qualify for the adult education component, parents must be eligible for services under the Adult Education Act, which provides basic and life skills for people who wish to complete their secondary education, GED or external diploma program course of study and enter the work force.

For those who have graduated, staff members help them brush up on math, reading and other skills they need to get a job.

In addition to helping adults at their location, the staff also will make referrals to other agencies through the Multi-Service Center for additional specialized skills and services.

The next step in the process is early childhood education.

"We do what we call parent-and-child time -- PACT time," Mrs. Eyler said. "We talk with the parents about what they can do with the child. It isn't just play when they're sitting there with blocks. It's play, but they're also learning.

"We talk to them and ask, 'What can you do with blocks?' If they're different colors, you can sort them according to colors, you can sort them according to shapes; the beginning of reading.

"You can build towers. Is it higher, or is it bigger or smaller? Or we can put them in a line, which is called seriation, from little to bigger. Most of us don't realize it, because we do it as second nature. But the parents are actually teaching their child concepts."

When the parents are finished discussing concepts with a staff member, they share time with their child in an adjacent room filled with toys. The parents encourage the child to play while they incorporate the concepts they have learned into the play time, teaching the child.

During debriefings, parents tell staff members what concepts they feel they and the children have learned. This step helps the parents realize they are learning parenting skills as well.

This learning process also includes taking field trips to local businesses and such Baltimore attractions as the National Aquarium. When families see the concepts they learned in action, their debriefing serves to reinforce that they have mastered a step of the learning process.

Mrs. Eyler said she has seen an increased number of parents acquire GEDs or diplomas through the external program and enter the work force.

She said she also has followed the development of children in the program and has shared the families' successes when the children enter school.

Because the program is housed in a portable building, space is limited. There are 10 active families enrolled, but Mrs. Eyler would like to see more.

She said some families have more than one child involved, but the program is not to be confused with day care. Parents who have a child in the program must accompany the child and participate in the learning process.

For those unable to get to the school, staff members go to the home to do training. There are 14 families learning at home.

The program is free for families who qualify.

In March, the program will be evaluated. Mrs. Eyler said she hopes there will be money available so her staff can continue to teach families who want to learn.

For more information, call Mrs. Eyler at 756-4088.

*

Pull on your dancing boots and mosey on over to the Union Bridge Fire Company tomorrow night for a country-style St. Valentine's Dance from 8:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. Music will be provided by the band Bootleg.

Beer and setups are included in the $10 ticket price.

The fire hall is at 8 W. Locust St. Information: 775-7830.

*

Beat the Valentine's Day rush Saturday and take your honey out to eat at Keysville Grace United Church of Christ in Keymar.

Dinner will be served on the hour from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.

For reservations, call Mike Duble, 756-2547, or Bob Moffitt, 756-6349. Let them know which meal you prefer: fried chicken is $5.50; ham steak, $6.75; and steamed shrimp, $7.50.

Tonight is the deadline for reservations. The church is at 2049 Keysville-Bruceville Road in Keymar.

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