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September 1, 2011

ULM professors work to improve literacy in children

For many years, professors from the University of Louisiana at Monroe have been storytellers and scholars as part of the Prime Time Family Reading Time® program, sponsored by the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities.

Through its methodology of open-ended discussion about the natural issues of the humanities present in children's literature, Primetime encourages reading among at-risk children, and the participation of their parents and family members in the discussion of the stories.

Primetime also promotes an early appreciation among children for themes associated with the humanities, such as justice, destiny, or self-identity.

The program has won the Public Library Association's 2003 Advancement of Literacy Award, The Coming Up Taller Award and The Helen and Martin Schwartz Prize.

Primetime has been implemented in schools and libraries in 39 states and ULM faculty members have participated in sessions throughout northeast Louisiana.

Beginning in September, English Professor Jack Heflin and Curriculum and Instruction Professor Beth Ricks, will partner in a six-week session of the program at the Carver McDonald Library, a branch of the Ouachita Parish Public Library System.

Librarian Nora Collins, a ULM graduate, is the site coordinator for the project and will direct the program.

Collins has a special connection to Primetime since her own daughter, Loretta, was an early participant in the program, and her family was recognized at an awards ceremony for Primetime in Washington D.C.

Department of Foreign Language Professors Ruth E. Smith and María Blanca Wortham will work together in a bilingual Primetime program in Union Parish. The participants will primarily be Hispanic families and their children.

In this Primetime program both English and Spanish will be used, and the children will have an opportunity to work with their language in an educational environment.

Their parents will be involved and will continue the work at home, which contributes to the literacy level of everyone.

Currently, there are Primetime programs in English, French, and Spanish in states as diverse as Louisiana, Florida, and Michigan.

The program receives financial support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, and most recently, a corporate grant from Shell Oil..

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