Literacy and poverty focus of conference

By Julie Fann
star staff
A free conference open to the public that will be held Saturday on the Milligan College campus will focus on the affect literacy and poverty have on parents and educators. So far, approximately 200 individuals are registered to attend.
"I feel like that's pretty good. I think that, right now, this is really timely because of the interest people have in the 'No Child Left Behind' Law. We're going to discuss it and how it's going to affect educators and parents," said Sherry Tysinger, who is a regional educator with Tennessee Parents First which is hosting the event with the college's department of education.
Tennessee Parents First is a parent information resource center grant funded by NashvilleREAD and the Tennessee Department of Education. The regional office partners with the Upper East Tennessee Human Development Agency, Inc. in Kingsport, to assist educators, parents, professionals and the community in developing methods enabling them to give the best possible education to children.
Billye Joyce Fine, director of the teacher education department at Milligan, is leading the workshop, which is titled, "Overcoming Barriers: Literacy and How it is Affected by Poverty and Parental Involvement," along with other local educators.
Tennessee ranks 38th in the nation in adult literacy skills, according to the National Institute for Literacy, and 27 Tri-Cities schools were listed as needing improvement following the first report card released from 'No Child Left Behind'.
"The areas we're falling short in are special needs children, economically disadvantaged children, and attendance. It will take schools, parents and communities working altogether to make an improvement," said Tysinger.
Chair of Social Learning and Director of Counseling at Lipscomb University, Dr. Bert Allen, will address special needs issues and poverty during the conference. The main speaker will be Jacque Johnson, director of early childhood education at Motlow State Community College in Tullahoma, Tenn. Johnson will discuss how literacy is affected by poverty and parental involvement.
According to the National Center for Children in Poverty, in some Tennessee counties more than one-third of adults have only "level-one" literacy skills. Forty-three percent of people with the lowest literacy skills live in poverty with no job or only part-time work, and of those parents making $20,000 or less, only a third spend time reading to their children. As salaries increase, the amount of parents that read with their children also increases. Nearly half of all parents making $60,000 read with their children.
In addition to attending the main sessions, those who register may choose three of 11 workshops to attend. The workshops include topics such as: ideas for increasing parental involvement, the 'No Child Left Behind' Law, how to help your child succeed at school, classes on the poverty and homeless situations existing in Northeast Tennessee, literacy issues, special needs sessions and reading strategies.
The conference will be held from 8 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. in Hyder Auditorium on the campus of Milligan College. On-site child care for children two and older will be available at no cost for a limited number with pre-registration. Free lunch will be provided to the first 200 people to register.
Registration is required to attend. For registration forms or more information, contact Sherry Tysinger with Tennessee Parents First at 423-246-6180.