Pima County Public Library engages youth with Hands On curriculum
See also Program Resources
In this description of Project LIFT, I hope to include the invaluable people that started it from its seedling. I'd also like to include those who contributed to its growth, and those who support and have continued the project making it what it is presently and keeping alive the direction of the goals from the beginning, always enhancing it with the current needs of the population it serves. Most importantly it is the numbers of the young and old that I work with daily, eager to learn and eager to share what it is they know.
Community Assistance and Initial Strategic Plan Development
The illiteracy rate was at an all time high in Arizona in 1993. During this period, 39% of the state's population were considered the functionally illiterate compared to the national rate of 21%. These statistics caught the attention of literacy educators of the then Tucson-Pima Public Library who wanted to move forward by building networks and proposing an action plan to help families in the communities. Laura Sullivan, Elaine Valenzuela, Liz Miller, Shelia Pattison, Virginia Beauchel and I, as well as others were key players in the start of this project. Fresia Lopez has also translated on numerous occasions.
My background of working with families tells me from talking with people that they truly want their families to be strong possessing literacy life skills to make them successful and happy. Arizona also had the highest teen birth rate, and the third highest high school dropout rate in the country published in the 1994 KIDS COUNT Report. Birth numbers per 1,000 teens between ages 15 through 19 in Arizona was compared with the most recent national rate of 62. These very young parents, women and men from all diverse backgrounds were taking on extreme roles that they weren't skillfully equipped to deal with and that impacted the existing family unit. Dependency of future early pregnancies, isolation and illiteracy from dropping out of school while maintaining mental wellness was occurring at an alarming rate. A red flag went up signaling the importance of assisting the youth and their families with the literacy life skills that were needed to be independent. The Arizona Daily Star reported in 1994 there were 1,732 teen births to mothers less than 20 years old, 80% of these teen parents were at or below the poverty level. Project LIFT's strategic plan began to target teen parents, their children and their extended family. During the years to come, the project design would begin to look at developing a curriculum that would focus on both literacy and pre-literacy skill development while incorporating cultural strengths of the family involving intergenerational activities. My roles with Project LIFT have been a Project LIFT Curriculum Consultant and instructor implementing the curriculum at a variety of sites during the past eleven years.
Youth Outreach Program Project LIFT Collaborates with Existing Groups
Project LIFT services existing groups with its literacy life skills focused curriculum. I travel to the traditional schools in all districts, alternative schools, social service groups, local Head Starts, Chicanos Por La Causa groups, community wellness centers, group homes, drug rehabilitation centers, community wellness centers, job programs, the reservations and juvenile detention centers. Attendance of classes and the attitude of learning new ways of doing tasks that are interweaved with the everyday responsibilities we have grown accustom to is the basis of success for the Project LIFT participants and their children. Stephanie Torres, PCPL tutor and former Burgers and Books Manager is the consistent volunteer of the project.
Project LIFT's "Hand's On" Approach and Curriculum Foster Literacy Life Skill Development
In November 2007 Rural Marana High School-TAPP students along with teacher Peggy Korte discussed the six early literacy skills that they were incorporating in the canvas books that they were authoring for their children to WebJunction Special Projects Coordinator Zola Madison. I am grateful to see Project LIFT students interacting with confidence as they promote a positive and creative learning experience for their children. They use problem solving techniques while illustrating their "Family Heirloom books."
Project LIFT students enhance themselves and their child's self esteem as they promote language development through effective use of books. They bond with their child while signify the importance of reading in their child's early life. In reality they are their child's first teacher and I respect them emphasizing their role in everything we do in the curriculum.
While working on the Project LIFT curriculum I utilized my strong social service background and past development of multicultural curricula for diverse populations. The curriculum has specific literacy skill objectives in its ten sessions. It is flexible and focused at the same time assisting the youth/participant to build upon their strengths while engaging the extended family.
A series of ten or more curriculum-based interactive classes reach out to parents on how they can develop their child's reading readiness skills. They include:
-Benefits of Reading to Babies
-Understanding the Magic of Bonding
-Types of Books that Babies and Children Like
-Planning for the Construction of the Cloth Book
-Completing the Cloth Book
There is also a GRINS sheet that the young parent uses to document, along with other family members, their literacy related activities with the child and other children in the home environment. Through each GRINS component Games, Reading, Interactions, Nursery Rhymes and Songs, it is listed by the family member who engaged and bonded with the child/children. This sheet is then placed into a baby bilingual booklet that the parent/student will earn at parent achievement time. This keep sake book is called Baby's First Years; Growing with Books/Los Primeros Anos de Bebe; Creciendo con Libros.
The bilingual finger play booklet Five Little Froggies/Cinco Ranitas was developed by the librarians through the Arizona Department of Library, Archives and Public Records Library Services Construction Act. These were favorites from library story times that families would practice in group time through a Project LIFT session.
As the child grows and matures the parent will be able to also read this portion of the book, showing that each family member contributes to the child's literacy development sending a message that this family values books and reading!
Funding Sources as Project LIFT Continues to Grow
In 1997 Project LIFT was the only public library program selected to receive a grant from the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy. The focus of Project LIFT is to increase quality time that parents and children spend together. In support of Project LIFT Mayor George Miller proclaimed May 14,1998 as "Tucson Family Literacy Day", stating that our city is very proud and excited to promote our goal of keeping Tucson a "child-friendly/family-friendly" community. Raul Grijalva, then Supervisor of Pima County Board attended and supported the celebration. The Friends of Pima County Public Library continue to help support Project LIFT by supplying books as incentives that students can use to read with their children. Books are order in English, Bilingual and Spanish Multicultural board books for the parents to 'choose' what they would like to read with their children. We have grown in diversity so much to be able to offer families books that their children can see themselves in! I am reminded of this by the memories of holding and reading to my own granddaughter, Caitlyn, the story A Birthday for Tia! The Pima County Public Library also continues to support Project LIFT in library budget. I also conduct Arizona State Parent Information Resource Center Training which assists the library with its funding.
The Impact of Active Involvement from Teen Parents for Advocating of Literacy Funding
Gina Macaluso, Pima County Public Library's Coordinator of Youth Services wrote a grant proposal to Every Voice in Project LIFT. The Sunnyside Unified High School students and their teachers from Project LIFT sites within the district answered follow-up questions for Project LIFT. Valla Dalrymple-SUSD/TAPP, Mary Giltner-SUSD/Up with Children and Sherryl Hardy-SUSD/Independent Living; Teachers of Tomorrow, were there to voice Project LIFT's effectiveness. It was also the second time that the students with their children came forward to discuss how Project LIFT had made both a difference in their lives and those of their children.
Once again it was confirming my belief that when a family learns what will help their children then they will indeed practice it, getting better at it and enjoying it more because they can see and feel the difference. Project LIFT was awarded the grant. Students also came a third time to assist in the demonstration and growth of the project at the Every Voice in Action office.
A Curriculum that Attracts and Allows Cultural Originality in Attaining Literacy Skill Building
In 2002, Las Artes, an alternative school located directly across from the Sam Lena-South Tucson Branch Library were taped by Channel 12 as they sang `a Spanish chant, Dulce, Dulce/Sweet, Sweet. They also worked on their Project LIFT books as students were interviewed. A young mother of 17 holding her two children expressed with sincere wishes that they would do well in school through her reading to them. The segment aired for over a month and upon request from the center and the Project LIFT students, I obtained a copy of the segment for them to keep and view. During their parent achievement celebration held at The John Valenzuela Center, all Project LIFT parents received a Project LIFT certificate indicating that they have completed the program, a canvas bag to carry books and a choice of multicultural books they chose for their child.
Extensions of the Project that Create a Comfortable Awareness of What the Library Branches can Offer Their Families
Project LIFT participants have become more involved in the PCPL Summer Reading components of both the teen and children's program. I have mini photo murals of different years that I show as a visual to them so that they are aware of the PCPL Summer Reading Program. Most all populations that I work with are visual learners. The murals show incentives that the participants earn for themselves independently as well as what they earn for their children as they read to them. There is almost a 90% rate of participants completing the Summer Reading Program. I share the public health message that Jim Trelease conveys both verbally and in handout form. "A child who reads during the summer in consistent form can actually up their reading level than a child who doesn't. Again it is what we learn that can help us as our child's first teacher. In July of 2007, Project LIFT worked with the Pascua Yaqui Nation in both the Education and Elder Centers. Parents and their children as well as Nana's who were now raising their grandchildren completed Project LIFT while earning tickets to visit a water park for the first time through the PCPL Summer Reading Program that Project LIFT provided for them. Everyone was pleased with the work done and Pascua Yaqui Nation personnel Aleena Hernandez, Esther Stauffer, Amalia Reyes, Genne James and David Dominguez had Reporter Kimberly Craft interview participants who authored their Project LIFT books in the Yoeme language. The Project LIFT story aired on Arizona Illustrated in July 2007. A Grandmother/Nana expressed sincerity for the family keeping alive its culture through handing the book down through generations.
What do You Want Books to Symbolize and Mean to You and Your Child as You Begin to Use Your Community's Library Branch?
To continue to be effective I observe, then ask and listen to what Project LIFT participants have to say about what they enjoy the most in the project. I also read what they write on the Pre-Surveys with regards to what type of literacy enrich environment they may or not be providing for their child and why. At the time of parent achievement celebration for the class I read the Post Surveys from the students and measured changes in reading behaviors. I also read the teacher's Evaluation Form and student's Book Evaluation.
Judi Moreillon, author, wrote the poem and book Read to Me/ Vamos a Leer which was translated by Mary Margaret Mercado, is a book used in the project. When Judi is available I ask her to visit a class. She dedicates her book to the parent and the child and we take pictures. The parent receives the picture of their family and it symbolizes that books and reading are valued in this family. The parents at The Child & Family Resource Center are one of the classes that she visited.
Project LIFT now has over 46 sites. I coordinate the scheduling, workshop request, purchasing and categorization of materials as well statistics and all necessary paperwork to ensure quality results. The project is extremely successful and often has classes booked a year in advance by regular sites and receives requests from three new program sites a year. Each year, despite the obstacles that families have I see a sense of accomplishment in the faces of these Project LIFT participants. Often I have been asked to visit the library with someone for their very first time. I am glad that they feel that I'm approachable and that they can ask me questions without being judged.
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