The Family Learning Center is a holistic approach that addresses the factors that influence reading skills in children. These include parent/guardian literacy, mental health, hunger, access to books and more.

It’s located in Dudley and focuses on children from birth to age 3, said Patty Graham, United Way community engagement director.

“It was about two years ago that United Way was gifted with close to $600,000,” she said.

“When it was gifted, the board wanted to designate it to a specific program that could be started and that would have a lasting effect on education, specifically the literacy of children.”

Graham said that during third-grade testing, not even half of the children are proficient at reading.

“The focus is where to start,” she said. “It starts at birth. If we can start with programs already working on that in early childhood, then we can put the pieces in place. The piece that was missing was for the low income part of Wayne County, which was the Dudley area.”

Graham said the program is similar to the Headstart Program. It works with two generations — children and their parents or caregivers. It helps improve their self-esteem and reading ability and all that goes into their health and wellness.

“It’s the wholistic approach to bringing up a healthy child,” she said.

The program hasn’t officially started yet. United Way is in the process of looking at property to house the program. The money is there, research is being done and an architect will design the plans for the Family Learning Center in Dudley. The program will start in 2019, Graham said.

“The Family Learning Center will have an effect on all of Wayne County,” she said.

“If we have children reading proficiently, that’s a good thing. If we have children in fourth grade and not being able to read, a lot of kids will make up their mind that they’ll not even attempt to do well in school. If they don’t graduate, they are not joining the workforce at the level they need to be.

“So we are growing our own workforce through the Family Learning Center. It all affects eventually all of us.”