Grant will bring gift of literacy to area families

By Lisa Williams Ackley

Staff Writer

STORY TIME — Little Molly is seen here with her Great Aunt Nancy sharing one of their favorite pastimes — reading!

CASCO — There are great learning opportunities for kids and their parents to explore, thanks to the Western Maine Family Literacy Program!

Earlier this year, the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy awarded a $25,000 Lighthouse grant to School Administrative Districts 61 and 72 Regional Adult & Community Education for the Western Maine Family Literacy Program.

The grant will be used to provide adult education, early childhood literacy, family literacy, parenting education, career exploration and job training to families through a combination of center-based and home-based services. The Crooked River Adult & Community Education Center in Casco is the primary site for the WMFLP, and other programming is provided at Molly Ockett Middle School in Fryeburg, Fryeburg Head Start, the Brownfield Public Library and at libraries in Bridgton, Sebago, Fryeburg, Denmark and Lovell as requested. Grant funds will also be used for outreach to local service providers and surrounding communities interested in establishing or expanding family literacy programs.

“The abilities to read, write and comprehend enable people to create brighter and more prosperous futures for themselves, their families and their communities,” Mrs. Bush said, at an award ceremony in Biddeford in June, when the grant awards were announced. “The staff and volunteers with the Maine Family Literacy Initiative are making a difference in many lives, and I am proud of their work to make Maine a more literate state.”

Some of the towns currently being served by the WMFLP include Bridgton, Casco, Naples, Fryeburg, Hiram and Sebago, and other towns in the two school districts.

Now, the Program’s Parent and Child Outreach Coordinator, Nicole Carey Kilborn, said she is excited to be spreading the word to families in the Lake Region who qualify for the services WMFLP has to offer — and she will work with families at their homes.

Nicole earned a Bachelor’s degree in Education at Lesley University where she majored in Human Development and Family Studies, minored in Theater Education and specialized in teaching reading. She also did her graduate work at Lesley University in Creative Arts and Learning.

“People say a lot about how literacy/education is important,” said Nicole, “but, it’s hard to picture, until you see different families learn together and grow! I never realized how important it was — but to actually see the ‘click’, when families read together and the joy it brings them — it’s like a surprise!”

“I believe in this program, and I don’t know of anything more important,” she said. “Being part of this literacy program to me is that, while I used to enjoy teaching, now I am actually living as a teacher, in this program — I am getting a chance to see the benefits — and they are greater than anything I’ve done in education.”

“I go to Story Time at the Bridgton Public Library, as part of the parent and child education piece that I do,” Nicole said. “We talk about nutrition, and the adult education aspect, too.”

“There will be a lot of outings in the summer, as part of the program, too,” she said.

When she is working with individual families on literacy and reading, Nicole said, “We will sit together, and I will model how it’s easy to do.”

Nicole, the mother of two small children, said her house isn’t always spic and span, so she doesn’t judge others for how their homes look.

“I’m a judgement-free zone, and I don’t care what’s in their cupboards or what’s on their floors — I believe really strongly in this program,” Nicole said. “The most important things for a child to have are shelter, warmth, food, cleanliness and love — and literacy, to me, is on the same level and vice versa.”

“It is really, really important to read to children,” Nicole said, with a sense of urgency in her voice. “Even with my own children, I read 10 books a day, on average, to our oldest daughter, Molly. There is no question, it is all based on literacy. It’s like hope and self-esteem. My goal is to help people learn the importance and fun of sitting down and reading every day.”

Interestingly, Nicole said young Molly looks to books to console her.

“Molly always reaches for books when she’s cranky,” said Nicole. “She looks to books as comfort.”

“I feel like I’m here for a reason,” Nicole said. “I am fortunate to have learned skills at the best place I could, and I believe I can help people actually make a change in their lives through this literacy outreach program. I know I’m fortunate, because I can bring things to the table and can go and actually make change to a situation.”

As for parents who want to learn how to read themselves, or who wish to improve on their family’s reading skills, Nicole stated, “All you need is someone who knows you’re a good investment — I’ve had a lot of good investments, and I hope I can get more!”

A family must have one parent who has less than a 12th Grade reading level and at least one child under the age of eight, in order to qualify for the services offered by the Western Maine Family Literacy Program.

As the holiday season approaches, Nicole said she thinks what fun it would be for parents to have books as presents for their kids, and read to them.

“Children enjoy it, when they listen to someone telling them a story with different, funny voices,” Nicole said.

Carrie Castonguay is the director of the Western Maine Family Literacy Program. To learn more about the WMFLP, Call 1-888-825-4291, ext. 22 or e-mail kristia.merriam@lakeregionschools.org

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