Program teaches low-income families literacy and health

GARDEN CITY — Eight-year-old Azza Mansour is playing “Busy Bingo,” a game that teaches her the importance of exercise by doing sit-ups, jumping jacks and pushups.

Across the hall her mother Hind is learning about exercise, but through reading and vocabulary.

By the end of the morning, Azza and Hind will join for 30 minutes to learn Zumba together. This is a family affair every Tuesday and Thursday at the Learning Lab, part of the Healthy Families summer program. Families take classes focused on improving health and literacy.

“This has been the best experience,” Hind said.

The Learning Lab is a literacy education center for low-income adults and families with young kids. During the summer, parents work on their literacy skills, while their kids engage in literacy learning activities.

“These adults are learning English for survival,” said Erika Warner, an adult educator. “I want my students to be independent and I want them to feel they belong here in Boise.”

The Learning Lab is a sense of community for Hind. She moved to Boise from Sudan 12 years ago. She has three daughters under the age of 11 and wants the best education for her kids and herself.

“I don’t want to stay home all summer with the kids,” she said. “I want to learn and have my kids learn with me.”

The Learning Lab offers three summer programs which are free for most families through scholarships. Nearly 94 adults and kids are enrolled this summer.

  • Families Learning Together
  • Healthy Families
  • Lunch and Learn

Adults and kids learn to cook healthy meals, read nutrition labels and grocery shop while saving money.

“If we are not healthy people we cannot learn,” said Monique Smith, the Learning Lab interim director. “Once the parent is informed of nutritional value the whole family becomes healthier and informed from the information they have.”

Staff at the Learning Lab show parents what community resources are available during the Healthy Families summer program. Adults went on a tour of Winco to learn about healthy meal options and how to use food stamps correctly. On another day, the adults learned about classes offered at the YMCA.

“I want to give them all the information so they feel confident while they are out in the community,” Warner said.

Nearly 300 tutors volunteer at the Learning Lab. Classes are offered year-round for adults and children in family literacy, adult basic skills and GED preparation. For more information about programs, click here.


Andrew Reed

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