*For Immediate Release*
Mississippi Community Education Center and Families First Gives Mississippians the Gift of Literacy
“Building a strong foundation in literacy is the core of success for students and adults. Families First for Mississippi has placed a strategic emphasis on building literacy programs to reach the whole family. Families First for Mississippi believes it is critical to address literacy issues in Mississippi, so that families can be successful,” said Dr. Nancy New, Co-Executive Director, Families First for Mississippi.
By: Jenny Cox Holman
There is something quite magical about being immersed in a good book that takes our imagination to places far and wide. In this time of instantaneous information, we reach for what we can find at the touch of a fingertip – social media posts on our cell phones, news on our tablets, and emails on our laptops. In a technology driven society, reading through the pages of a well-read book seems to be a long-lost art and perusing through local libraries is an activity of the past.
Even in a time with vast technological advances, the inability to read and write still plagues communities throughout our country. Imagine the difficult, daily struggles for those who are unable to read and write and the social and cultural embarrassment and setbacks that go along with illiteracy in society. Currently 45 million Americans are functionally illiterate and cannot read above a fifth-grade level, according to the Literacy Project.
The causes of illiteracy vary from low-income homes with limited access to books and educational resources, to undiagnosed learning differences or disabilities, or hardships in life that create setbacks in school. The foundation of education, opportunities for success, and interpersonal skills are all dependent on our ability to read and write.
Families First for Mississippi along with Mississippi Community Education Center provide opportunities to advance literacy for our state. Families First for Mississippi has partnered with the Mississippi Community College Board and the Mississippi Department of Human Services to provide ongoing high-quality early childhood professional development and technical assistance to childcare providers and families statewide through Early Childhood Academy (ECA). “Building a strong foundation in literacy is the core of success for students and adults. Families First for Mississippi has placed a strategic emphasis on building literacy programs to reach the whole family. Families First for Mississippi believes it is critical to address literacy issues in Mississippi, so that families can be successful,” said Dr. Nancy New, Co-Executive Director, Families First for Mississippi.
According to the Mississippi Department of Education, research shows that students who do not achieve grade level literacy by the 3rdgrade are four times more likely to drop out of high school than those who do. When students enter fourth grade with strong reading skills, they are better positioned for success in the classroom, high school graduation, and readiness for college or a good job.
Families First for Mississippi hosts center-based programs throughout the state that provide parents and childcare professionals with resources to promote literacy instruction. These programs include: seminars and training for early childhood professionals on the Mississippi Early Learning Standards and Guidelines, technology-based literacy instruction for adults and literary assessments; book drives and supporting literacy campaigns in schools and childcare centers; early childhood academy coaches and resource and referral associates that support childcare centers; lending libraries at Families First Resource Centers located throughout Mississippi for parents and childcare providers; and training for parents on literacy strategies to use at home with children.
Families First for Mississippi provides resources to promote high quality early childhood education and youth literacy, adult literacy and English as a Second Language (ESL) courses. Families First for Mississippi literacy programs provide evidence-based remedial reading skills and training for children and adults, individualized curriculum pathways, and skill development in the key areas of literacy, phonics and phonemic awareness, vocabulary development, reading fluency, reading comprehension strategies, and writing skills.
The unified educational efforts at school, along with community support and parental involvement at home, can build a healthy foundation for literacy. The Literacy Project stated, “Children’s academic successes at ages 9 and 10 can be attributed to the amount of spoken words they hear from birth through age 3. Mothers who frequently speak to their infants have their children learn almost 300 more words by age 2 than do children whose mothers rarely speak to them. Children exposed to fewer colors, less touch, little interaction with adults, fewer sights and sounds, and less language, actually have smaller brains.”
Healthy, frequent and consistent communication between children and parents is an important foundational element of literacy. Children need access to high-quality, age-appropriate books to reinforce the various stages of the reading process. In an effort to provide access to books for families of various economic and demographic backgrounds, Families First for Mississippi hosts book drives throughout the state of Mississippi. The mission of the book drives is to build a strong foundation in literacy with a strategic emphasis on building literacy programs to reach the whole family.
For those of us who were given opportunities with the gift of literacy, we have the ability to see the world through a kaleidoscope of colors. The written word teaches us, inspires us and shapes our views of the world around us. Families First for Mississippi looks to provide community resources to pave the way for educational, social, and career opportunities through literacy educationfor all Mississippians.