Weber State University junior Jeni Claudio is proud to report that her five young children have made great strides in their educational achievement since she began reading to them regularly. That’s quite an accomplishment, considering she was raised by parents who couldn’t read.
The Claudio family is just one of 2,000 Weber County families that WSU’s Family Literacy Program has served since its inception in 2006.
The program, housed in the Jerry & Vickie Moyes College of Education, provides in-home literacy and parenting support to families, most of whom participate in Head Start and come from lower-income backgrounds. Parents in the program gain skills for engaging in literacy with their children and learn parenting strategies like setting goals and establishing positive discipline practices that avoid yelling or spanking.
In 2014, the American Academy of Pediatrics called for pediatricians to talk to parents about the importance of reading to children from infancy, stating that it stimulates optimal patterns of brain development and strengthens parent-child relationships, while building language, literacy and social-emotional skills. In addition, studies show that children who engage in literacy at home are more likely to graduate from high school and pursue higher education.
Claudio said her family dynamics changed significantly following the help and guidance of facilitator Ana Carlin, a 2006 Weber State child and family studies graduate.
“Reading to my kids is going to help them in the future,” Claudio said. “Having that family time with a book, or having my son on my lap and teaching him his letters is really nice. Now, all of my kids are doing great in school.”
Carlin met with Claudio for nine months, and although the formal visits ended in 2013, they continue to stay in touch.
“At the beginning, I could see that Jeni felt alone and needed help from the community,” Carlin said. “Now, wow, what a change. She is focused, and she wants to improve her life and improve the lives of her children.”
The Family Literacy Program operates in partnership with WSU’s Department of Child & Family Studies, Ogden-Weber Community Action Partnership (Head Start), Elizabeth Stewart Treehouse Museum, George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation, Ally Bank, Stewart Education Foundation and the Weber State Boyd K. and Donna S. Packer Center for Family and Community Education.
The Ogden Deseret Industries Thrift Store has donated 4,500 books and educational games to the program, and the Glasmann family, represented by Myrene Glasmann Temple, is the program’s primary donor.
“Research shows that a larger vocabulary in kindergarten is a strong predictor of later academic success,” said Paul Schvaneveldt, Family Literacy Program director. “The goal of the program is to empower families to build literacy skills with their children to better prepare them for success in school and life.”