Literacy Network coming to Berrien, Cass

Published 8:22 am Wednesday, June 25, 2003

By By BEN RAYMOND LODE / Niles Daily Star
Niles - Niles Community Schools, Cass County and River Valley School District have received seed funding to establish a new Family Literacy Network.
The aim is to help develop a literacy network that will serve families in southern Berrien and Cass counties, as well as students whose first language is not English.
Typical aims of a literacy network includes enabling both adults and youths to acquire the listening, writing, speaking, reading and technology skills needed to solve problems they encounter in daily life.
Wakevainen, a former Brandywine Public Schools Adult Education supervisor, has created the model the network will be based upon.
According to Wakevainen, the network will establish a referral system where individuals in need of literacy services will be referred to the network.
They will then be matched with a tutor in their own community.
Older individuals will be enrolled in their local Adult Education program so that as they progress, they will be able to continue learning in a local Adult Basic Education or English as a second language program.
Pro Literacy, formerly known as Laubach, will provide training for the tutors.
According to U.S. Census data, Berrien County's population includes 18.1 percent of persons over the age of 25 that have not completed high school.
Out of a population of 161,820, this represents 29,289 who did not complete high school.
In Cass County, with a population of 51,321, the figure is 10,059 dropouts.
The data, although recognizing that many of these individuals function at higher literacy levels, states that a large percentage of the individuals do fall into low literacy categories.
In terms of students with English as a second language, Berrien and Cass counties have a combined population of 8,904 foreign-born persons.
The data also shows that there are 13,644 individuals over the age of five that live in households where other than English is spoken.
Perhaps making the literacy network an important tool in ensuring students of all backgrounds have an easy transition when they start school.
Wakevainen, however, said the literacy network is only in the beginning phases.
He said a meeting will be held at the Niles District Library on Tuesday, July 1, to inform people about the program.
Libraries, schools and individuals have already been invited, but the meeting is also open to the public.
A partnership of stakeholders will form the network, including public schools, libraries, senior citizens organizations, community service organizations and businesses.