Prospects Literacy Association
Ruth Hayden and Maureen Sanders
In the fall of 1992 Maureen Sanders, Executive Director of Prospects
Literacy Association in Edmonton, attended the Roots of Literacy
Symposium in Brooks, Alberta. The keynote speaker was Ruth Nickse,
pioneer in the field of family literacy. Already interested in the
concept of family literacy, Maureen was excited by what she heard at
the Symposium, seeing the potential of family literacy as a positive
adjunct to the adult literacy programs offered at Prospects.
Established in 1980, Prospects had evolved as a prominent organization
in the development and delivery of adult literacy programs in Alberta.
Prospects nowhas a large volunteer tutor program, funded by Alberta
Advanced Education and Career Development, with between 150 and 200
tutoring pairs in any year. It also has a strong record of innovation
in special projects such as programming for adults with developmental
disabilities, tutor training programs in math, creating curricular
materials, and research on literacy program management and program
evaluation. Given its history for exploring new initiatives for
literacy acquisition, it was not surprising that Prospects would
venture into the new area of family literacy.
At the same time, Ruth Hayden, Professor in the Department of
Elementary Education at the University of Alberta, had been reading
the research literature on family literacy and understood its
possibilities for literacy acquisition among at-risk
families. Innumerable hours were spent talking together about the
merits of family literacy and about ways to incorporate family
literacy into existing programs at Prospects. They wondered what
obstacles they might encounter, how they might find funding to support
their efforts, and how they might evaluate the influence of these new
programs on participants. They felt that collaboration with other
agencies should be an integral part of any program in family literacy.
Programs should also include an evaluation component in order to
determine best practices.
Following the Roots of Literacy symposium, a group of interested
literacy practitioners formed an ad hoc committee called the Family
Literacy Action Group of Alberta (FLAG) whose goal was to promote
and support the development of family literacy across the province.
Over the next three years, the National Literacy Secretariat provided
funding to FLAG, under the auspices of Medicine Hat College,
to produce a variety of documents such as a database of current
research on family literacy, manuals on family literacy, building
community partnerships, and conducting evaluation. These resources
would prove invaluable in supporting the fledgling family literacy
work at Prospects.
In the summer of 1993, based on her experiences with the Homespun
family literacy program in Brooks, Bonnie Annichiarico, a FLAG
member, was invited to Edmonton in order to provide in-service
training to a group of interested literacy workers. In order to meet
local needs, Ruth and Maureen decided to modify the Homespun program
which shows parents how to read, talk about, and share books with
their young children. They contacted an inner city childcare centre as
a possible site for a program and source of potential participants.
Two small grant applications were submitted to the Northern Alberta
Reading Specialists Council and to the Clifford E. Lee Foundation in
order to offer a Books Offer Our Kids Success (BOOKS) program
to two groups of inner city women. By the fall of 1993, Prospects had
taken its first steps into family literacy.