Raising A Reader Helps Two Families

James and Chonlada have lived at the Windrose Apartment Village, an affordable-housing complex in north Phoenix, since 2006. The pair share a two-bedroom apartment with their six-year-old daughter Aimerie and four-year-old son Alfonso. The family has struggled in recent years after a tragic event two years ago. James, on a quick run to the store to buy diapers, was present during a violent robbery. He was shot and lost almost all of his eyesight, and is no longer able to work.


The pair were interested when their apartment manager told them about a reading program taking place right in their complex. The parents had seen Alfonso doing well in his Head Start preschool program and they wanted him to continue to improve his reading skills. Chonlada completed the program with both of her children and now incorporates reading and writing into their daily routine. They also attend a story time conducted by the local public library at the apartment complex every Wednesday afternoon.


Raising A Reader is one of Southwest Human Development’s early literacy programs for children ages three to five. The sessions educate parents about how they can build literacy skills in their young children and prepare them for kindergarten. Raising A Reader is brought to families in affordable-housing apartment communities across the Valley, making attendance easy. The program also brings together different families for networking and mutual support.


Indeed, Chonlada has become active in education issues; she’s involved in her children’s schools, and helps out her neighbors, some of whom are unable to read and write, with their children’s homework.


The pair have also become close to similarly dedicated parents in their community.


Barisi and Darlington were born and raised in Nigeria. Married since they were young, they were separated from each other in one of the wars that wrack Africa. For three years they lived in separate refugee camps, each not knowing whether their spouse was alive. After Darlington came to the U.S. as a refugee, he searched doggedly for news of Barisi, and finally located her. She was able to join him in America.


They have one daughter, Nieberi, who is five years old, and an extended family that includes several of Barisi’s siblings. All participated in the Windrose Raising A Reader program, where Bairisi shared her African heritage and traditional dress with other families. Before the sessions, Barisi says, she and Nieberi would watch television before going to bed. Now they sing songs, dance, and read books at bedtime. The family has also made a special place for a library in their home.

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