Program 'Empowering Parents' to learn English, read to kids

November 14, 2011
Author: Nadine Wimmer,


(photo courtesy of

SALT LAKE CITY -- For many parents who speak English as a second language or speak little to no English at all, getting involved in their child's education is difficult. But the Empowering Parents program in Salt Lake City is trying to change that, one parent at a time.

The program gives parents access to English instruction through their child's school, offering both day and evening classes. "The main goal is for the parents to feel comfortable enough in the schools that they feel like they can be involved," says Sarah Flanigan, the Empowering Parents Program Coordinator.

In small class settings, these parents learn English, and other basic things like how to read report cards, excuse their child from school, and join the PTA.

"We do some role plays with what a parent teacher conference would be like," explains Flanigan. "One of the goals of some of our students is to do their parent teacher conferences in English without an interpreter and so that's really exciting when they're able to do that.


Maria Lopez, a mother and Empowering Parents participant at Glendale Middle School, is working to be able to help her son with his homework.

"The homework is English," she says. "He has a question for me on the homework. It's hard."

The English Skills Learning Center, which runs the program, says studies show that children whose parents learn English do better in school.

University of Utah Instructor Karen Marsh defended her Master's Thesis on the topic and she says this program works.

"The parents that we looked at, they reported their children's grades improved through their participation in the program."

And it's not just the children who benefit. Schools also see a reward when parents are more involved.

"Schools are always trying to get the parents involved, and this is really a simple way to solve a couple of needs," says Marsh, who also see parents walking away from the program being able to do three key things that make all the difference:


  • Learn English, especially vocabulary often used in school settings.

  • Be able to read to their children at least 20 minutes a day.

  • Be able to communicate with the school to see how their child is doing.

The Empowering Parents program is open to any parents or guardians who need help, and they can join any time throughout the school year.



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