There’s only one difference between most preschools and the one on the campus of Queen Creek Middle School — typically parents don’t attend class alongside their preschoolers.
Addressing the needs of the Queen Creek Unified School District’s 300-plus migrant workers, the districtsponsored Family Literacy Program teaches migrant adults English as a second language at the same time it prepares preschoolers for kindergarten. Maricopa County Head Start funds the program, now in its second year. It reaches close to 350 families.
"Parents learn English, and then read to their children in English, helping their education," said the program’s director, Maria Silva. "Another benefit is parents get comfortable on school campuses and are more willing to get involved in their children’s education," she said.
Parents learn not only English, but U.S. history and computer skills, said Miguel Garcia, director of adult education. Teachers assist migrants with obtaining their general equivalence diploma.
Preschoolers interact with their parents as well as attend a preschool that looks like any other early education facility. "We help the child become an enthusiastic learner," Silva said.
Besides educating a population that is often overlooked, the Family Literacy Program also provides much needed social services, Silva said. Parents learn about budgeting, proper nutrition and health, as well as how to become advocates for themselves and their children. The district also maintains a food and clothing bank for those with needs.
Parents must be willing to have monthly visits from social workers. They must also be willing to utilize their new computer, language and office skills in a volunteer position.
The program employs 22 people, all district employees. Silva who oversees the program said she’s tireless in her efforts, but couldn’t do it without Garcia, whom she refers to as her "right hand, left hand and my mind."
Although the district typically serves Hispanics, Silva said Queen Creek is more multicultural than people realize. "We’ve served people from Turkey, Korea, Philippines, Iran, Haiti and a family who spoke a Guatemalan dialect," she said.