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"Hand in Hand" - empowering families through language development

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Click to enlarge,  Mothers and their children attend CCCC's Hand in Hand program at the Head Start Center in Angier. Pictured in front are the mothers with their children. Pictured on the back row are, left to right: teachers Sol Osorio, Alison Macomber, and Julia Owen, and CCCC College and Career Readiness Coordinator Melody McGee.

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Mothers and their children attend CCCC's Hand in Hand program at the Head Start Center in Angier. ... (more)

05.01.2015College & CommunityCollege General

By Susan Welch, CCCC Correspondent

ANGIER -- Mothers and children begin arriving at the Angier Migrant Head Start Center at 9 a.m. to learn English together. The mothers receive instruction on how to read children's books from an ESL teacher at Central Carolina Community College (CCCC), while their children engage in activities pertaining to the theme of the book the mothers are reading.

This family approach to literacy is part of a new CCCC curriculum titled "Hand in Hand" aimed at ESL adults and meant to empower families through language development. Funded by a $35,000 grant from the Harnett County Partnership for Children, the project is being spearheaded by Melody McGee, College and Career Readiness Coordinator at CCCC's Harnett County Campus.

Hand in Hand employs the nationally recognized "Motheread" curriculum, a program that combines the teaching of literacy skills with child development, adult empowerment, and professional skill development.

During a typical class, a certified Motheread instructor distributes a new children's book to each parent or participant. The instructor begins with an opening activity related to the topic of the book and the class takes turns reading the book. The instructor then leads a discussion of issues contained in the book and suggests methods for sharing the book with their children.

The purpose of the program is to help parents improve their own reading skills, help their children become better readers and thinkers, and to improve family communication. Motheread, Inc., is supported with funding from Wake County Smart Start, the North Carolina Community College System, the North Carolina Department of Correction, Wake County Human Services, as well as other grants, contractual partnerships, and individual and corporate gifts.

In 2012, the North Carolina State Center for Health Statistics reported that 17 percent of new mothers in Harnett County had less than a high school education. Many in this population are Hispanic and speak no English. A large portion of them live in linguistically isolated households, creating a great need for English instruction.

"It is important for these children not to go to school with delayed language development," said McGee. "Hand in Hand offers an opportunity to those with the lowest level of English skills to gain basic English knowledge, which in turn will help the whole family function successfully in our community. CCCC will establish eligibility of students based on residency in Harnett County and verification of the child's age."

To implement the Hand in Hand program, four CCCC College and Career Readiness instructors attended the Motheread program at CCCC's Harnett County Campus. Another 10 colleges were represented at the course. The College and Career Readiness Coordinator for CCCC's Harnett County Campus will oversee the Hand in Hand project.

"This is a different approach to teaching English as a Second Language," said CCCC ESL Lead Instructor Julia Owen. "They learn to read books in English, therefore picking up new vocabulary, and they also learn the lessons the books teach. In one book, a man talks about his journey from Japan to America. The children and parents compare it to their own journeys from Mexico, Guatemala, and other countries."

For more information, contact Melody McGee, CCCC College and Career Readiness Coordinator in Harnett County, at 910-814-8972 or e-mail her at