Partner Story

Empowering Parents through Family Literacy

Grant Recipient

The Literacy Center of West Michigan

Awarded Amount


The Literacy Center of West Michigan was founded in 1986, and modeled on the “each one, teach one” tutoring philosophy, which designs activities around the learner’s individual needs. As the first organization in Kent County to focus exclusively on adult literacy, The Literacy Center works with adults, both native English speakers and English language learners, who read below a 9th grade level and want to improve their literacy.

In April 2017, the Steelcase Foundation awarded The Literacy Center $90,000 over three years to support its growing Family Literacy Program, which provides English language instruction to parents of elementary-aged children in Grand Rapids Public Schools, Godwin Heights Public Schools, and Godfrey-Lee Public Schools, helping them to be their child’s first and best teacher. Following a research-based model from the National Center for Family Learning, the program focuses on improving educational outcomes for children by strengthening literacy practices at home, bridging the gap between home and school.

In the first year of the grant, the Family Literacy Program served 253 parents, and reported the following successes:

  • 85 percent of learners made literacy gains against their intake scores on the Comprehensive Adult Student Assessment Systems (CASAS) test after 40 hours of instruction;
  • 66 percent increased their weekly at-home literacy behaviors with their children (playing games, reading books going to the library) up from a baseline of 51 percent;
  • 90 percent of parents interacted more frequently with their child’s school or attended activities while speaking in English, up from 15 percent who felt comfortable before receiving services from the Family Literacy Program;

We’re pleased with the progress the Family Literacy Program has made thus far, and hopeful years two and three reach additional parents in need of literacy assistance. For those interested in joining the program visit The Literacy Center’s website.

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