Niagara Gazette

April 24, 2014

Niagara University unveils its Family Literacy Center

By Timothy Chipp
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Families looking for help in all things literacy need only look to Niagara University. It’s Family Literacy Center is officially open for business.

As part of the university’s college of education, the center pairs graduate students studying to be teachers with anyone – in particular, students in grades pre-kindergarten through eighth – who has a need related to the English language.

Whether it’s grammar, vocabulary, comprehension or any number of other aspects relating to literacy, the center’s teachers, students and resources are available to provide the necessary assistance to provide growth.

“Today, it’s absolutely unacceptable to all of us that people – good, smart people – are being marginalized because they cannot read,” Bonnie Rose, university executive vice president, said Wednesday. “Whether they come from another country and have trouble grasping the English language or our school systems failed them, there are so many in our communities that are being held back. That just isn’t right. That’s appalling. That is something this center seeks to address. That’s the way we can really change lives through this initiative.”

Having spent this past year piloted to ensure viability, the center, under the directorship of Kathleen McGrath, provides those using its resources, including 26 different reading levels of books and other reading materials, with individualized instruction and assistance, where graduate students work one-on-one with those in need. The pairs focus on improving reading, writing and listening skills, all part of literacy.

Not only are these literacy skills necessary for students taking their English Language Arts examinations in their home districts, these skills also translate to other subjects, including mathematics. Under the Common Core Learning Standards, math problems have children writing sentences along with solving equations, putting extra emphasis on the reading and writing aspects of literacy.

Dorothy “Dot” Swift started using the center as it was piloted for her third-grade daughter. She said the center provided her child the ability to attend to her struggles

“Fortunately, my daughter loves to read,” Swift said. “Unfortunately, she struggles with it. She was scared to talk in front of people and other things scared her as well. She still struggles, but not nearly as much as she used to.”

McGrath said Swift’s daughter is just an example of what the center is offering students. Pulling struggling students from all three surrounding school districts and from as far away as Williamsville, she said every child participating at the center showed growth when assessed by their graduate student mentors.

Rose, the university’s executive vice president, said the results demonstrate exactly what Niagara is attempting to provide in the community.

“This project is as close to the center of the mission of Niagara University as anything else that happens on campus or will hopefully happen,” Rose said. “Our mission teaches us all human beings have dignity and that we need to serve those who are marginalized by means of poverty or some other aspect of their lives.”

Contact reporter Timothy Chipp at 282-2311, ext. 2251 or follow on Twitter @timchipp.