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Parents, children 'write their futures' in ASU after-school project

teacher Gini Jackson helping a student read aloud
November 18, 2014

Kindergarten, first- and second-grade children and their parents took turns sharing their writing in a designated “author’s seat” at the front of a room.

One by one, each bravely read a polished narrative describing a person who had made a positive difference in his or her life; Emily shared a piece about her dad, who proudly filmed her with his phone, and Ana, a parent, read about her special person, her grandma, as her own mother looked on.

The celebration reading was the culminating event of an eight-week, after-school project called “Writing Our Future” for 20 children and their parents and siblings. Participants gathered at Arizona State University Preparatory Academy’s downtown campus each Wednesday from 5 to 6:30 p.m. to write, read and share stories as a bilingual community of writers.

The workshops provided extended opportunities for families to practice and develop literacy skills, and to support young writers’ school-based writing.

One of the mothers participating in the project said the experience "allowed me to gain strategies to support my child in her writing development, and I was able to use this educational time to connect with my child, to other students, and to families.”

The family writing workshop, an outreach of the Department of English’s Central Arizona Writing Project, is funded by the National Writing Project and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Grants are awarded with the aim of improving early school success by developing academic literacy program models focused on English learners and their families.

Jessica Early, associate professor of English at ASU and the director of the Central Arizona Writing Project, organized a team of teacher-leaders with expertise in family writing, biliteracy and elementary education to design and implement this socially embedded project.

The team, which is led by Tracey Flores, a doctoral student in English education and co-director of the Central Arizona Writing Project, consists of Autumn Warrntjes, third-grade teacher at Landmark School and a teacher-consultant with the project; Amy Liermann, a kindergarten teacher; and Gini Jackson, a first-grade teacher at ASU Preparatory Academy.

"This project builds on the Central Arizona Writing Project’s work with teachers of English learners throughout the greater Phoenix area, and is an example of how ASU’s Department of English is partnering with local schools to support family literacy – and to provide bridges between local schools, the community and the university," said Early.

This spring, a new set of writing workshops will be offered to K-3 students and their families at Arizona State Preparatory Academy. These workshops will extend the work of the fall offerings and will serve as a model for enhancing academic literacy for young English learners.

ASU graduate student Flores, instrumental in creating curriculum and leading the teaching team, describes this project’s value and impact.

“The Writing Our Future Project honors and celebrates the cultural and linguistic resources of children and their families by creating a space to share stories and take risks in reading and writing," Flores said. "Through participation in the program, parents, children and the school collaborate to support access to academic literacy growth in powerful ways.”

The Department of English is an academic unit of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.