Twenty-two parents at the West County First 5 Center are on their way to becoming certified “ Tandem® Literacy Champions.”

Tandem Partners in Early Learning®, the organization we fund to provide StoryCycles book-sharing programs throughout the County, trains parents so they can, in turn, help other parents in the community learn how to build their children’s early literacy and language skills.

The first step to becoming a Literacy Champion is for parents to attend four training sessions on early literacy and family engagement. Of the parents and caregivers participating at the West County First 5 Center, one was a father, three were grandparents, and most were bilingual in English and Spanish.

The three-hour training sessions included topics such as Early Learning and the Growing Brain, Word Play All Day, interactive read aloud tips, and bilingual family and presentation skills. At the last session, each participant prepared a presentation on an early literacy topic and shared it with the group.

“For many Literacy Champions in training, the idea of sharing their knowledge is exciting, but a bit nerve-wracking,” said Tandem Contra Costa County Program Supervisor Lucy Parada. “But with practice and support, I’m seeing parents transform and become more confident, engaged leaders in their community.”

After finishing the classes, parents then commit to volunteering with Tandem Community Literacy Specialists out in the community. For example, Tandem is hosting a story time at the San Pablo Library on March 22 with Literacy Champions on-hand to lead stories, engage in arts and crafts, and provide interactive read-aloud tips for parents in attendance.

The final phase for the Champions, which comes with a generous stipend for participants, is to host literacy workshops and events that reach 20 additional parents in their community.

“I was most impacted by what I learned about brain connections–the connections between the brain and reading, looking at pictures, hearing sounds, acting out the story. Everything we do strengthens the children’s brain connections,” said Loywonner Haddadou. “I’m more encouraged to be creative when reading stories with my grandson, including using instruments to make sounds in the stories. I’m really looking forward to the next part of this program, the leadership piece. I’m ready!”

Literacy Champions in other counties have shared books and knowledge at community events, demonstrated read aloud techniques at their child’s birthday party, and presented interactive reading tips and family engagement strategies with their church members and mother’s clubs. Participants continue to receive expert coaching to help them implement their solo activities.

“The Literacy Champions are agents of change in their communities,” said Parada. “At Tandem, our goal is to reduce the achievement gap by boosting children’s early literacy skills. The Champions are spreading this message and helping more parents learn about simple, yet powerful ways they can help their children get ready for school. I can’t wait to see what the West County Champions do next.”