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Beginnings Guides Blog

Support a parent’s enrollment in a literacy program or adult basic education

You’ve referred a parent to a literacy enhancing program. Together you and the parent
used Dynamic Tension to put her focus squarely on her vision of her future as a skilled
reader. She has completed preliminary steps and organized the necessary supports.
Now the day has come and she is ready to enroll. This step is the scariest.

New readers talk about driving around the building for hours; or walking to the door
and then back to the car over and over again before finding the courage to walk in and
say out loud, “I need help”. They say the biggest fear is finding out that they really are
stupid. Before they enroll, they can say the school system failed them. But if they go to
the literacy program and don’t succeed; that would prove that their parents and teachers
and others who said they are stupid were right.

Since many programs rely on volunteers and are underfunded, the parent might encounter
an unskilled teacher, or one who does not recognize a learning disability. So it is important
to become familiar with programs you refer to (literacy programs for non-readers and up to
about 5 grade level; adult basic education beyond that). You will want to know about the
intake process and how the program manages learning disabilities.

Literacy expert, Audrey Riffenburgh of Plain Language Works, offers these ideas to support a
person in the enrollment process. First, think of ways you can ease the anxiety and build confidence:

·     Consider putting together of group of parents who could attend together and might evolve to
a study group and support group. 

·     Whom to call? Just the thought of making an appointment to enroll is anxiety producing.
Offer the contact information along with a picture of a friendly waving person – ideally the person
she will talk with when she calls, or meet when she enrolls.

·     How to get there? You can use a Google map and insert photos of landmarks and places a
person might get lost if they cannot read the road signs.

·     What to expect? Make the experience as predictable as possible by reviewing usual processes,
and remind her that it might not happen exactly as planned.

·     Arrange to meet the parent at the enrollment site, if possible. If you go, and you know
the person behind the desk, you can introduce the parent. But your job is to stand by.
Do not speak for her. 

·     Congratulate her. Reflect back to her the strengths she demonstrated in completing
this huge baby step.

·     Discuss her next baby step toward literacy.

Support does not end here. This is the beginning of the beginning. Closely follow her progress.
Invite her to read aloud to you from the Beginnings Guides or information from the doctor or
community resources. Encourage her to read aloud to the Baby who will love hearing her voice
and not care about mistakes. As soon as she becomes discouraged or misses a class, check with
the director of the program for help discovering and addressing the problem. Your continued interest
and consistent attention indicates the importance of the challenge and your belief in her ability to
succeed. Your persistent support is a gift that could transform their lives.  

Emerald, David. (2009). The Power of TED* The Empowerment Dynamic.
Polaris Publishing, Bainbridge Island WA http://www.powerofted.com/ 

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