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Building Power Through Literacy at EFC

FIA and Education for Change Public Schools (EFC) joined this winter to launch a Literacy Institute for families at EFC’s 5 elementary schools: Achieve Academy, ASCEND, Cox Academy, Lazear Charter Academy, and Learning Without Limits.

Over four weeks, families are gathering together to build knowledge around EFC’s science-based approach to reading for students, as well as reading standards and achievement milestones, while also learning strategies families can use at home to get their child on grade level. The goal is to empower 100 EFC families in a literacy institute this year to build early literacy student practices and skills that can be used at home while also empowering parents to be champions of literacy in their children’s schools by spreading the word to other parents.

“When you look at the data,” said Erica Baires, a FIA Family Organizer. “It’s alarming.”

1 out of 10 African American students in Oakland public schools are reading at grade level.

1 out of 10 Latino students in Oakland public schools are reading at grade level.

When families hear these numbers, they are outraged and motivated to make a change. But how to make that change? It can be daunting to climb a tall mountain.

It’s possible if everyone is aligned and working together – families, students, educators – and they have the proper support, Erica said. “We can’t put the weight just on the school, but we also can’t put the weight just on the parent,” she said, “and we just also can’t assume the student is going to get it.”

Emely Nunez works directly with families as a Family and Community Coordinator at Cox Academy. Emely said families started building power at the first literacy institute session in January by hearing and sharing their own personal stories about literacy.
Emely Nunez

“Sharing our story is empowering for our families to see that we’re capable, despite the education we might have had or how much reading we might have learned,” Emely said, “we have enough power within ourselves to learn now. And as we’re learning, we can also help our children. We are capable of reading with our children despite our educational background.”

For the institute to be successful, each organization has a role to play. “Education for Change’s focus is on the science of reading,” Erica said. “And we are focused on developing that leadership and empowering parents.”

Heather McLaughlin, a parent of an Achieve Academy student, said she wished the institute had been around before after participating in the first session. She’s looking forward to learning more to support her young student.

“I really like that [EFC] parents are being taught there’s a science behind the way reading is being taught now,” Heather said.

Emely said she hopes parents like Heather leave the institute with some important knowledge on how to support their child’s literacy, and also not be satisfied with what they learned.

“I hope families are intrigued and they’re learning a lot,” Emely said. “But I want them to want to keep learning and feel like they’re capable of learning more. That’s empowering.”

You can learn more about how FIA and EFC are working together to build parent literacy champions at

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