Opportunity Faculty Fellows: Can improving English literacy help families move up the ladder?

Learning English is a key goal for many immigrant families, but there’s been little systematic study in Charlotte of which methods work best.

Professor Adriana Medina plans to change that with a project to continue a pilot program begun at UNC Charlotte’s College of Education. The literacy class for families began as an outgrowth of her class on teaching English to non-native speakers, in which student teachers instruct English learners at Camino Community Center.

The payoff for increased economic mobility could take years to become apparent for participants, but Medina expects it to help in the long run. 

“Literacy is one gear you move all the way over here at one point, and it has to touch a bunch of other gears to make that impact on economic mobility,” Medina said. “It’s a little bit more indirect, but of course it is foundational.”

The 37-week program will include bi-weekly literacy sessions for parents and children, monthly community guest speakers for the parents on topics such as financial literacy and citizenship, and monthly “family fun days” to explore the group’s linguistic and cultural diversity. 

One of Medina’s goals is to create a self-sustaining program, by building a team that can set new goals and develop content, as well as finding new partners for funding and support. Her ultimate goal is a permanent program that can continue beyond her class. 

The research will include qualitative and quantitative data collected at the beginning, middle and end of the program to assess its impact on participants.

- By Ely Portillo