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Community Engagement Incentive Grant: Clara Lee Brown

Family Literacy for a Multilingual Community: Helping Parents, Helping Children (“Project HPCH”)

Lenoir City Elementary School partnered with UT researchers in a “Literacy Night” project to promote family literacy skills for parents and their children.

Clara Lee Brown

“Reading is critical” to the formation of other academic skills that every student needs, said Clara Lee Brown, who works in UT’s Department of Theory and Practice in Teacher Education.

Sharing literacy-building strategies and building community across language and culture, parents of English Language Learners worked alongside parents who are native speakers of English to become effective literacy coaches for their children.

The project, dubbed “Literacy Night” by all participants, was held twice a month from January through May in 2013. Qualitative data were collected to assess the impact of the project. Methods included interviews with the parents, children, principal, and  homeroom teachers  and observations of parent-child interactions.


Lenoir City Elementary School parent, Sandra Baraha (left) with Lenoir City High School student Teresa Bedolla. Bedolla, who is bilingual, helped translate to those speaking Spanish during the Literacy Night project. Photo: Lenoir City News-Herald

University researchers and Lenoir City Elementary School professionals worked in close partnership from the beginning of the project.

The principal arranged the initial meeting between researchers and teachers to identify potential participants for the project. The principal also called the parents to remind them about Literacy Night and came to each session to greet the participating parents and children.

“There is more and more reading that is going to be required in math,” said LCES Principal Don Maloney.  “We already require a lot of it in science and social studies and language arts. . . We are just trying to build that process outside of the school day because the research shows when you do more of it you get better at it.”

According to one homeroom teacher, participating children asked for more books to take home and took more risks while reading in class. The teacher added that participating in “Literacy Night” boosted their confidence in reading and children became less intimidated by the challenges of reading.