©State Institute for Teacher Training and School Development, Germany

The State Institute for Teacher Training and School Development in Hamburg, Germany, is awarded the 2010 UNESCO King Sejong Literacy Prize for its Family Literacy Project (FLY), which targets both children and parents in immigrant communities in Hamburg.

Building bridges between school, communities and parents

“Use the picture of one of your parents or a group photographs to write your family history so that it can be told to your children”. That is one of the exercises done by the mothers taking part with their children in the Family Literacy (FLY) project run in Hamburg, Germany. Launched in 2004 in several deprived districts by the State Institute for Teacher Training and School Development, this project is one of the winners of the 2010 UNESCO King Sejong Literacy Prize.

In Hamburg, where immigrants make up 14% of the population, the FLY project is being implemented for parents from immigrant communities, mainly mothers, and their children below the age of six. The first few years of life are indeed crucial to the child’s attitudes to learning and future approach to education. During that period, too, parents play a key role in children’s acquisition of literacy skills. It is also a time when many of them make steps to learn or re-learn to read and write in order to help their children with their schoolwork.

For two years, mothers go to school once a week with their children. Some activities, such as games centred on books, are done together. In others, conversely, children and mothers are separated. The point is not merely to learn to read and write, but also to become familiar with books, to stimulate pleasure in reading and to learn to write texts in German, in the parents’ mother tongue or in both.

Each year nearly 1,000 parents and as many children learn under the FLY project. From an initial nine districts, the project has grown to include 33 districts, and each year 25 additional schools join the adventure. Down the years the project has successfully built bridges between schools, families and communities. It fosters communications between parents and teachers and has gradually changed the culture of participating schools. In several schools, rooms have been fitted to accommodate the mothers. After the two-year course, many of them have improved their self-esteem and confidence.

Sometimes the project uncovers talents such as Ümmühan, a mother of Turkish origin who found that she had a gift for writing. Her poems have been published and her collection is now used in literacy courses for immigrant women.

Agnès Bardon

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