In the early hours of the morning, in a classroom in Oakland, California, 20 mothers are learning to read, write, and interpret English.

At first glance, it may seem like an attempt to better acclimatize to a new culture – and while that may be a part of it, it’s also so much more.

Oakland Unified School District is just one of 100 school districts across the country that teaches English classes to immigrant parents and guardians – and what educators are noticing is that the programs have a dramatic impact on the relationship between the parents and their children.

Not only are the parents and grandparents becoming more involved in the school community itself, they are also more inclined to engage their children in homework and academically-related conversations. The kids then go on to get higher test scores; the parents land better jobs as a result of the program; and both of them are more likely to pursue higher levels of education.

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“In some of our studies, we’re showing that kids whose parents attend family literacy attend school 16 more days a year. That’s a whole year by the time they graduate high school,” Sharon Darling, the President of the National Center for Families Learning, told PRI.

Kathy Locke, a teacher for the adult education program, also told the news outlet: “It’s been really neat to see my students realize that the stuff that their kids are bringing home for homework that they don’t understand — they actually know how to do it.”

Wahbiai Alqaifi, a student in the program and mother of six, had struggled with English since moving to California from Yemen 15 years ago. With the help of her instructors, she can now participate in English-driven conversations with her children, saying: “When they talk to each other, I understand what they say. Before, [could not] understand what they say.”

(LISTEN to the whole story below) – File photo by Senior Airman Nancy Hooks

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