The Washington Post recently highlighted the plight of homeless families living in the DC General Family Emergency Shelter, which is located in the old DC General Hospital. You can find the articles here and here. The Post articles noted that 900 people are currently living in the shelter. This number includes 600 children who are growing up in a challenging situation.
Homeless children living in an unstable environment face particular challenges when it comes to literacy. Statistics consistently show that young homeless children experience developmental delays, especially in speech. The instability of their living situation makes it difficult for these children to consistently attend preschool programs, which are rarely available to begin with. Because of these challenges, the Junior League of Washington (JLW) has recently partnered with Literacy Lab to assist with an early literacy program for toddlers and young children up to five years old, in the DC General Shelter. The name of the program is Ready to Read.
On Saturday mornings, the women of one of the JLW’s newest committees, the Literacy Lab committee, join with Literacy Lab instructors to help young children develop early literacy skills. The Ready to Ready program also provides parents with strategies and skills to support their children’s learning. Volunteers spend time reading and playing educational games with the children and assist with the parent skills workshop. Volunteers also observe the children, looking for developmental milestones to assess the children’s progress, as well as any skill deficiencies. The children and their parents are a joy to work with, and it is incredibly rewarding to be involved with such an impactful project.
As the Washington Post articles highlight, homeless families in the DC General shelter are faced with difficult challenges on a daily basis, including transportation to programs outside the shelter. Establishing an early literacy program within the shelter allows parents and their children to attend the program on a regular basis and provides them with tools to help achieve future academic success.
If you are interested, please stop by Literacy Lab’s table at an upcoming Placement Information Event on either Saturday, April 13 or Thursday, April 25.
Cary Gibson, JLW Member on Literacy Lab Committee