MEA members forge family partnerships, help improve literacy in rural communities

CHARLEVOIX, Mich. — What started as a pilot program to engage families and communities in reading has created new bonds among students, parents and educators in rural communities across Northern Michigan.

Through the Family Literacy Projects, MEA members identified families in rural areas with higher rates of poverty to encourage students to read, and parents to read with their younger children. The program provided families with a collection of books to read and discuss at home, as well as web-based resources to inspire further reading.

“Literacy isn’t something that only takes place in the classroom between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m., and it requires working partnerships between educators and families,” said MEA member Glen Young, a retired Petoskey High School English teacher and co-director of the Top of the Mitt Writing Project. “In order for literacy to thrive beyond the classroom, it has to involve the family — that could be parents, grandparents, siblings or other caretakers.”

The project is part of a National Endowment for the Humanities grant awarded to the Top of the Mitt Writing Project and brought together teachers, families and school administrators in the Boyne Falls, Pellston, Charlevoix, Alanson, and Grayling school districts. The books were geared primarily toward K-8 students, and the topics ranged from classic novels to more modern works.

While the grant funding is only for the current school year, some volunteer educators plan to continue their working relationships with the families.

“This project has been transformative for our parents and teachers,” said Jane Garver, a Charlevoix Teacher Leader. “We have formed new relationships and bonded with parents over our shared love for their children. It has been a terrific experience for each of the families that took the plunge and participated. What a joy to celebrate reading and writing each week with our families.”

“This program helped our family grow together in making lasting connections to one another using our words in different ways by writing,” said Jennifer Fruk, a Charlevoix parent. “They saw us, as parents, work on new styles of writing that challenged us and our children to talk together more easily about their school experiences. We had fun and the skills we learned, the writing styles, and the books are still bringing joy to our family.”

“The Family Literacy Project was a great success for me, personally, because it allowed me to understand that reading is an easy way to connect with my kids,” said Dave Grossi, also a Charlevoix parent. “It’s made the one last thing we do before bedtime a fun thing for the kids to look forward to.”

“Learning doesn’t stop at the end of the school day, and our dedicated educators work tirelessly to build partnerships with families to improve literacy in their communities,” said Chandra Madafferi, Michigan Education Association president-elect. “We applaud these hard-working educators and are excited to see our students love for reading improve across Northern Michigan.”

To read Glen Young’s full story in the MEA Voice magazine on the grant project that included the Family Literacy Projects, visit

NOTE: The following photos feature educators working with parents as part of the Charlevoix Family Literacy Project (credit Toby Kahn-Loftus, Top of the Mitt Writing Project):

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