LEWISTON – Statistics prove literacy levels have a definite impact on lives; improving literacy improves quality of life. With this in mind, L/A Arts, Lewiston-Auburn’s local arts agency, recently sponsored a two-session memory book workshop for parents of young children.

The workshop was spearheaded by Knowledge as Power Family Literacy Program, a community-based collaboration between Literacy Volunteers of Androscoggin and Auburn Adult Education, dedicated to eradicating illiteracy in the Twin Cities and Androscoggin County at large.

According to a study done by the National Institute for Literacy, 43 percent of adults who struggle with a reading level of one or below, live in poverty and work an average of 19 weeks a year, compared to 44 weeks for level five readers. Furthermore, adults reading at a level of one earn a median income of approximately one third that of level five readers. Androscoggin County’s illiteracy rate is 18 percent, according to the same study.

The purpose of the workshop was to show parents how to craft their own family memory book, which they can read to and with their children. Jen Ryan, L/A Arts education director, said “This workshop was yet another opportunity to mesh the arts with literacy and education.”

Parents spent two days, May 19 and 26, creating one-of-a kind personalized children’s story books. Martha Truscott Boardman, artist and arts educator for the past 25 years, guided parents through the process of creating the memory books.

Parents were encouraged to fill the books with personal family recollections and events with which the children could identify. The final product was something each child would want to handle and enjoy looking at again and again.

“Memory books are a great way of communicating family stories,” Boardman said. By hand-creating their own memory book full of pictures and words they can relate to, parents become comfortable reading to their children and confident in creating and reading other books.

Tahlia Hope, executive director of Literacy Volunteers, said the Family Literacy Project is foremost, an in-home program. “Those who couldn’t make it to the workshop will still get a chance to make their own memory books with our child educator,” Hope said.

The long-term goal of the program is to empower parents as primary educators with improved adult literacy, better prepared children for school and better performances for school-age children.

For more information, contact Hope at Literacy volunteers in Auburn, 753-1772 or e-mail [email protected]

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