NEWBERRY — Within the walls of the family literacy program is a place where 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds can learn while their parents are learning.
The Bright Beginnings Child Development Center is umbrellaed under the family literacy program and housed inside the Adult Education building.
Tuesdays through Thursdays, and sometimes Monday, children come to learn with their extended school family while parents take adult education classes until noon.
Since family is emphasized heavily within Bright Beginnings, there is also Parent and Child Time Together (PACT) time in the mornings, said Emily Crump-Saddler, the family literacy coordinator for the school district.
Parents read to their children or do some sort of learning activity before classes begin for everyone, she said.
There are only 10 students allowed, said Saddler which allows more a more intimate learning environment also.
This program is free as long as parents are enrolled in adult education classes, said Saddler.
The three teachers — Annie Laurie Dorrah, Jeanne Cushway and Doriece McMorris — plan their lesson plans every day.
“Teachers base the plans on each child and where they are,” said Saddler. “If they see delays, we refer them as needed.”
During class, the teachers focus on different motor skills, block centers, dramatic play, puzzles and art, said Saddler.
The room is set up with different stations for students to visit. There is also the wall of friends.
“This lets them know it’s OK to talk to these people,” said Saddler. The wall has the teachers up as well as the students and the parents who come to pick up the child. It also has other people in the building who may stop by.
After December, the center will have Newberry College students join them as friendly new faces as the students volunteer through the college, Saddler said.
Saddler said there is a lot of community support for the child development center and family literacy in general. They work with DSS, DHEC and have other partnerships with businesses and individuals that assist the program.
In addition to learning and support from the community, Bright Beginnings also has fun whether it’s having a harvest celebration in the fall, Christmas holiday celebrations, or celebrating Pink Out and honoring survivors.
Since the program is free, there is plenty of asking for grants for the program.
Last year, the Newberry Family Literacy Program and the Newberry Adult Education Program received a $10,000 collaborative grant from the S.C. Department of Education. The funds from this grant were used to assist adult learners in becoming literate and obtaining the knowledge and skills necessary for employment and self-sufficiency, assist parents to obtain the educational skills necessary to become full partners in the educational development of their children and assist adult learners in the completion of a secondary education.
In March 2013, the Newberry Family Literacy Program was selected to receive funding under the U.S. Department of Education’s Innovative Approaches to Literacy program. Saddler adds they also receive funds from First Steps and the Newberry school district.
“We are happy that the district has supported our program,” said Saddler, adding they are quite smaller compared to other programs.
She said there are many success stories. In fact, the program’s first Bright Beginnings student graduates high school this year and Saddler said she has done very well as she is a Beta Club student.
While the teachers have an effect on the students, it’s the students who can motivate each other.
“The kids learn through each other. Last year, we had Spanish kids speaking English and English kids speaking Spanish,” said Saddler.