Project REAP: Teaching Mothers to Teach Their Children
Walk into the IRC in Atlanta’s education center on a Wednesday morning, and you will be greeted by children’s music and the warm smile of Ms. Monica Hackney, a DeKalb County Public Library Literacy Facilitator. Ms. Hackney visits IRC Atlanta each week to help pre-kindergarten refugee children and their mothers to become literate in English. “I enjoy working with the children,” Ms. Hackney says, “But I really enjoy working with the mothers and children together.” And that is exactly the aim of Project REAP (Reading Empowers All People). What separates Project REAP, a DeKalb County Public Library program, from the average preschool program is its focus on family literacy.
For the first hour and a half of Ms. Hackney’s weekly Wednesday morning visit, she sits at a kid-sized table with IRC’s youngest refugees and uses puzzles, books, and other fun activities to help them develop the skills that they need to begin kindergarten. “Sometimes I try to read with them—some kids understand English better than others. We also go over counting, the numbers, and ABCs,” says Ms. Hackney.
Photo: the IRC in Atlanta
In the last part of the class, the mothers join their children in the classroom. This is when Ms. Hackney seizes the opportunity to “teach the mothers how to teach the children,” the essence of Project REAP. “Mom, this is what we did today…,” begins Ms. Hackney’s conversation with the mothers. She opens a children’s book, or she pulls out an educational puzzle and its accompanying pieces, and she briefly reviews with the mothers the same material that she taught the children that day. The goal is that the mothers and children will practice these newly learned literacy skills together at home.
Project REAP is so invaluable, says Deborah Cash-Bargabus, IRC Atlanta’s job readiness instructor, because “it helps engage our mothers in early childhood education. And it helps them recognize the need for involvement with their children’s learning at an early age.”
Adds Ms. Hackney, “I believe in all of these refugee programs. I would like to see them continue to get funding.”
The IRC in Atlanta is grateful to the DeKalb County Public Library for its continued partnership in bringing literacy to refugees through Project REAP.