Memorable discussions took place at this time, most of them around key issues. One such issue was how to present the new program to the community. Was it to fix family deficiencies? Was it to enrich existing family strengths? What message did they want to communicate on family literacy? These questions had to be answered before Council could move forward with any degree of focused planning.
Eventually, they agreed that the aim of the program was to build on the existing knowledge, skills and cultural practices of the participating families, a statement which acknowledges the strengths and experience that families bring to the program. Another issue centered on the families served. Some members of the group thought families with low income and low literacy skills were the obvious participants. Other members were not convinced that families above this level should be denied access. In fact, some of the Committee thought that setting criteria of any sort only added arbitrary barriers. Finally, entrance criteria established for all participants, stated that adult participants be accompanied by a preschool child of three or four years of age and that each family be interviewed and assessed as part of registration.
The benefits of quickly building a strong, knowledgeable family literacy council paid off. The group focused on important considerations such as which family literacy model would best serve the community, where would the project be housed, who would staff it, and how would it be funded. Each question was addressed one at a time as all at once became overwhelming.
The Chilliwack Family Literacy Model
Perhaps the easiest decision of the Council was selecting the type of family literacy program for Chilliwack. The Direct Adult - Direct Child program type (Nickse, 1991) was the Councils unanimous choice. The model offered equal opportunities for adults and children and did not weigh one group as more important than the other. This choice clearly valued the importance of each generation in the family.
Having selected a program type, the Council chose a model on which to build the Chilliwack program. The Kenan model, from the National Center for Family Literacy (Seaman & Popp, 1991) was selected largely because of its structure. It features an adult program, an adult support group, a preschool, and parent/child time. The Council felt that the Kenan model offered the most benefit to Chilliwack families because of its ability to accommodate a broad definition of family literacy as well as to provide each family participant with equal access and program time.
In its deliberations, the Chilliwack Family Literacy Council concluded that literacy takes many forms, and as such should be considered in the broadest context of family culture. While reading, writing, and numeracy skills are a critical aspect of literacy development, these skills develop within the family culture, including the psychology of its members, the socio-economic nature of the family, and the familys relationship to the community. All such skill development should be considered within the context of the whole family and not in isolation.
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