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East Side Story: A literacy project for parents

Posted: January 3, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: January 3, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Carlene Payne introduces the skill of tracking, or the eye’s ability to read across text in a line. Carlene Payne introduces the skill of tracking, or the eye’s ability to read across text in a line.
Carlene Payne introduces the skill of tracking, or the eye’s ability to read across text in a line.
Ana Perez, left, and Nelly Diaz sort through photos of Perez’s daughter to be placed in a scrapbook as part of a parenting class project at Cedarcreek Elementary School in Canyon Country on Dec. 7. Ana Perez, left, and Nelly Diaz sort through photos of Perez’s daughter to be placed in a scrapbook as part of a parenting class project at Cedarcreek Elementary School in Canyon Country on Dec. 7.
Ana Perez, left, and Nelly Diaz sort through photos of Perez’s daughter to be placed in a scrapbook as part of a parenting class project at Cedarcreek Elementary School in Canyon Country on Dec. 7.
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Kenny Martinez admits he hasn’t always been as involved with his kids as he could have been.

The 30-year-old from Saugus works during the day, and when he came home he let his pre-schooler and first-grader play on their own.

Then Family Stories came along — a new program at Cedarcreek Elementary School inspired by The Latino Family Literacy Project that teaches parents how to read with their kids and get involved in their kids’ school work.

Now the Cedarcreek dad takes every opportunity to volunteer in the classroom. At home, he makes time to read the Children’s Bible and “Hot Wheels” book series with his kids.

“I want to be more involved because I see that the kids like it,” he said. “And I like it.”

The Canyon Country elementary school campus launched Family Stories a year ago as a way to boost involvement for parents of elementary school-age kids and incoming kindergartners.

The school is designated low income under federal guidelines. Seventy-three percent of its 470 students come from low-income households.

Fifty percent of students are considered English-language-learners and need extra support in their studies.

Every week, parents visit the school to gain literacy skills, improve their English and swap books to take home to read with their kids. They’ll create scrapbooks with mementos and memories to chronicle their children’s and school years together.

All of the lessons are in both English and Spanish; Cedarcreek teachers hope to show parents that education happens at home and that kids who are exposed to reading at an early age are more likely to succeed in school.

“This is an easy thing to do, and one of the most important for them to do with their children,” said Carlene Payne, kindergarten teacher and lead instructor for Family Stories.

A recent lesson taught parents the concept of tracking, or the eye’s ability to read across text in a line, by having them point a finger to every word on the page as it is read.

“We want to show that for every word we say, there is a word in print,” Payne told the parents who sat in at kid-sized desks flipping through bilingual children’s books.

As parents feel more comfortable at school, they find that their kids get excited over their involvement in the classroom, Payne said.

Marlene Ramirez, Cedarcreek parent of two, has improved her own English skills as she picks up books with her kids.

The 27-year-old has made it a goal to encourage fellow parents to come into the classroom and read together.

“It will help them,” she said through a Spanish translator. “It’s helping the children when the parents are involved at school.”

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