News Column

Hispanic Center Extends Outreach to Teach English Literacy

September 3, 2013

Anthony Orozco

After successfully completing its first family literacy class this summer, the Daniel Torres Hispanic Center is working to train Berks County educators to be able to lead their own courses.

Elaine Moreno-Raffucci, director of early childhood literacy and higher education coordinator for the center, is training nine Head Start family engagement workers and one family engagement supervisor from various school districts to help parents be their child's first teacher.

"This is to train them so they can then go and train groups of parents," Moreno-Raffucci said. "So this way we can touch even more families."

Head Start is a federal preschool program designed to improve educational opportunities for low-income families.

The group consists of Head Start family engagement workers who serve families in Reading, Shillington, Oley Valley and Hamburg school districts.

Abriendo Puertas (Opening Doors) is a 10-week, bilingual early childhood education program that guides and instructs parents of children from infants to 3-year-olds how to create English-literate households and foster positive academic performance.

Moreno-Raffucci also pushes parents to become actively involved in their children's schools' parent-teacher organizations and school boards.

"We also acknowledge that the parents can make the choice to make a difference in their child's school," she said.

The Hispanic Center graduated 13 Spanish-speaking families from the program in June and since that time has been in talks with Head Start.

"It is ironic because Head Start has been very aware of Abriendo Puertas on a national level; but here in Berks County, we couldn't seem to make it happen," said Judith A. Blimline, program administrator for the intermediate unit Head Start. "Once we made the connection with the Hispanic Center, I said 'This is amazing; this is what I wanted.' "

Blimline said each family engagement worker oversees approximately 72 children each, and that the majority of children with whom they work come from Spanish-speaking homes.

The Head Start workers have completed two training days; the last one will be on Wednesday, and family engagement workers should begin facilitating Abriendo Puertas to families by mid September, Blimline said.

Blimline echoed Moreno-Raffucci's sentiments that program helps more than Spanish-speaking families.

"They (the family engagement workers) are really enjoying training; it is helping them do their jobs better," Blimline said. "They see that the concepts of Abriendo Puertas are concepts any family can benefit from."

Contact Anthony Orozco: 610-371-5015 or


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