In Norwalk, the Raising Readers program offered by the Family Resource Centers is making huge strides in providing parents with the knowledge that it is important to read to their child every day. The best and richest source for vocabulary is age-appropriate children’s books. Books contain many words not usually found in day to day conversation with children. Reading aloud daily fosters valuable interaction between parent and child and allows children to associate books and reading as a positive experience. This program is part of the Norwalk Early Childhood Council’s plan to increase readiness for kindergarten.
Coming from a culture in Guatemala that had specific roles for a Mother and Father, Mr. and Mrs. Aviles found living in the U.S. very different and a bit overwhelming. Supporting the family had always been the primary role for the Father in the house, and most of the child development came from the Mother. Apprehensive at first, Mr. and Mrs. Aviles came to the first session of Raising Readers and were immediately excited. They understood the value that this type of program would have on them and their children. Mr. Aviles was also surprised, not just by the value he saw but also that there were three other Dads in the program. “I was working all the time and assumed my boys would be reading at school. I didn’t know how important it is to read at home as well,” said Max Aviles. Seeing how other Fathers were engaged with their children’s education, Max began to adjust his time working so that he could become more active.
Both Mr. and Mrs. Aviles praise Raising Readers for changing their lives. “If you don’t take advantage of these programs and resources, you will never learn,” stated Karina. “Participating in the program has been a great way to connect with other parents, support one another and expand our knowledge and reading skills.”
The Aviles family includes two boys, Kenneth and Anderson. The oldest son Kenneth has especially flourished in his reading. At age 9, he is reading at a fifth grade level, and during the most recent parent/teacher conference, his teacher asked them what they are doing. They explained they were in the Raising Readers program. The teacher praised them and said he is doing so well he does not need remedial summer classes.
“As our children’s reading skills improved at school, we found it difficult to answer some of their questions,” said Karina Aviles. “Education is very important to me so I can reach the same knowledge level that others have.”
Encouraged by Raising Readers to become more active in the community, Max and Karina joined a Spanish-language People Empowering People group in Norwalk, and are establishing a book club for Spanish-speaking parents at Brookside Elementary where their sons attend. “My husband and I are grateful for United Way funding and supporting this program because we feel like we are better parents and a better part of society.” I think every parent should not just do things how they were raised, but be different. They need to find someone to help them be better.”