Brenda Ludd attends Community Nights at Martin Luther King Elementary, where her grandchildren attend school. Ms. Ludd’s daughter also attends when she can, but as a single mom with a full-time job (that often requires working evenings), it’s difficult to find the time.
Ms. Ludd and her grandchildren were new to DC public schools this year, having moved from Virginia to DC just a year ago. Shortly after, Ms. Ludd received a flyer from the school about a program that offered information and resources to parents and gave books to students. She quickly got involved. Especially to her children and grandchildren, Ms. Ludd has always emphasized the importance of taking advantage of whatever resources and opportunities are available to them. “We’re not a family that lets anything hold us back,” she explained. “We may not have a great economic situation, but I tell them [her grandchildren], ‘God gave you a brain. You are smart. You can succeed.’”
TTP’s emphasis on literacy development resonated with Ms. Ludd’s own philosophy on education: “The best book you can give someone is a book,” she says. Ms. Ludd encourages her grandchildren to read as much as possible – on their own, with her, and with each other. On evenings when Ms. Ludd’s daughter is at work, she and her three oldest grandchildren (the youngest is just 9 months) form a family book club: Everyone sits in a circle and takes turn reading. Sometimes they each read a book they want to share; sometimes they take turn reading one book “popcorn style.” Though Alexis, who is three, can’t yet read, everyone listens to her when it’s her turn as she mimics reading from a book. Many of the children’s books come from Turning the Page. Their favorites, Ms. Ludd explains, are the TTP books with “such bright colors” because those “really get their attention.”
Ms. Ludd also values TTP as a source of community. During a conversation with Ms. Ludd, I was reminded of the proverb that “it takes a village to raise a child,” but with an important addendum: Perhaps it takes a village to raise a child, but it takes a parent or grandparent to build the village. Community building is an integral part of TTP programs, which give parents opportunities to meet, learn from, and find support in one another. Ms. Ludd explained, “Even if we don’t see each other outside of school, when we see each other again in school, we remember. Betlemska kaple . We’re like ‘Hey, you were at the meeting the other day! I was your partner!’ […] We love each other and we shared that experience. And that’s something new I’ve never had before…a blessing, to have that kind of relationship with parents.”
Ms. Ludd says that she hopes to help her grandchildren develop confidence that no matter what challenges they face, they can succeed if they believe in themselves. TTP shares Ms. Ludd’s belief in their potential. We would add, however, that a student believing in him or herself often begins with a parent or grandparent doing so and providing support as they strive to fulfill this potential. For, Ms. Ludd’s family, that belief and support are guaranteed.