JLH Community Impact Issue: Family Literacy

In 2015, Junior League of Huntsville members voted to select Literacy as the League’s focus area for our community impact projects from 2016 until 2023.  In 2016, the League’s Board of Directors and Management Team decided that JLH would focus on initiatives to improve Family Literacy in our Huntsville/Madison County community. Family Literacy involves parents & caregivers and children learning together. Also known as intergenerational literacy, and in some cases, community literacy, the rationale underlying this type of literacy is that parents and caregivers are children’s first teachers, that much learning occurs beyond traditional school settings, and that learning is a life-long process. Family literacy often involves the act of educating a whole family because helping increase a parent’s literacy also benefits the child. On average, children typically spend 900 hours per year in the classroom versus 7,800 hours outside of school. The large amount of time that students spend away from school underscores why learning outside the classroom in enrichment activities and at home is important, and why parental involvement correlates with student success. Although family literacy traditionally takes place within the family through interaction and daily activities of life at home, family literacy activities and programs are often initiated by organizations outside of families.

JLH’s emphasis is on Family Literacy resulted in the development of “One on One: Let’s Read”, a Family Literacy Night Project, which encompasses an educational approach that includes four separate but integrated components.

1) Parents and caregivers receive adult literacy education and information about general children’s literacy resources & programs.

2) Children participate in individual and group activities that are appropriate for their age and developmental level while receiving books to begin building a home library.

3) Parents and caregivers receive information to help them understand their child’s literacy development in order to learn ways to support that development at home.

4) Parents and children learn together through interactive literacy related activities.

Encouraging family literacy helps students view learning as a continuous process that they will work on throughout their lives — especially outside the classroom.  Parents and caregivers who are involved in their child’s education and literacy skills increase the child’s overall potential regardless of other factors such as socioeconomic status. The overall involvement of a parent in their child’s education often correlates to a student’s success more than the quality of their school.

The Junior League of Huntsville’s focus on family literacy to increase the literacy skills of local children and adults is critical to the overall improvement of the Huntsville/Madison County community. Illiterate adults are more vulnerable to ill heath, exploitation, and human rights abuse. They are more likely to be unemployed and paid less or living in poverty. Individuals who are unable to read or write well are stunted from reaching their full potential. The Junior League of Huntsville strives to create and support effective programs to assist residents of our community attain literacy skills and resources to help them reach their full potential.