Building Family Literacy Capacity: La Capacidad de Lectura Familiar

College of Education

SUMMARY: Dr. Ruthie Bosch and Dr. Laura Desportes have spent the last few years developing partnerships that positively influence families living in mobile home communities in Harrisonburg and surrounding areas.

Building Family Literacy Capacity: La Capacidad de Lectura Familiar  

By: Kara Myers   

Dr. Ruthie Bosch and Dr. Laura Desportes have spent the last few years developing partnerships that positively influence families living in mobile home communities in Harrisonburg and surrounding areas. Since 2007, their community project inspires growth for the future and has grown tremendously, now including Harrisonburg City Public Schools (HCPS) and On the Road Collaborative.  

The community project involves seeking support for residents of the mobile home parks in Harrisonburg and surrounding areas. In explaining how this project started,  Dr. Desportes highlights key issues that our local school systems face. She stated that “We have worked since 2007 doing a literacy assessment practicum in the local schools, and throughout this time we have had more and more kids coming into kindergarten less and less prepared for the academic demands. The kids that we typically serve come from these densely populated mobile home parks.”  

After assessing the issues that families face in these areas, Dr. Bosch and Dr. Deportes have developed potential ways of ensuring the children coming into kindergarten are prepared for academic success. But first, they realized the downfalls of the programs intended to help these communities in the United States. "The United States still has this model where you are supposed to come to the people who have the resources, which is not successful." The resources need to be easily accessible for these communities, which is a main factor of contention for the mobile home parks. Due to the diligent work that Dr. Bosch and Dr. Desportes have contributed to this project, they have created various partnerships to help the cause. HCPS, Skyline Literacy, On The Road Collaborative, and Divine Unity Church are just a few of these key partnerships that allow this project to thrive. Dr. Desportes commented on the partnerships, "We have great enthusiasm from all of our partners with this community project." Not only are there partnerships in the outside community, but JMU has also partnered with the Dean's office in the COE, and the College of Behavioral Health and Human Services.  

There is also a way for students to become involved with this community project. In the Spring of 2022, teaching students will have the opportunity to enroll in a literacy course to expand on this project; students can work as mentors for these families. Bosch noted that they are "proposing to develop a class, teaching teacher candidates how to train middle school students on how to become tutors for their younger siblings, so they can develop early literacy skills. The hope for this class is for these future teachers to see the value in working with one of these vibrant communities. For our JMU students, this project would give them so many valuable skills and confidence for working with these students that come from communities similar to these." Concerning what stage their community project is in, Drs. Bosch and Desportes reflect by saying they are "now at a point where we are identifying families who have children at Skyline Middle School and Smithland Elementary School."   

This community project focuses on the education of this community and also helps with other aspects of life. The Divine Unity Church is a valuable partner to the program. "The importance of faith is a major part of this community partnership, by offering bible classes for adults and children in Spanish." They also deliver food to 30-40 families in the mobile home park.   

Dr. Ruthie Bosch and Dr. Laura Desportes are always looking for more partnerships for this community project; if anyone is interested in learning more about this project or their class offered in the spring, do not hesitate to reach out ( or 

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Published: Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Last Updated: Monday, January 9, 2023

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