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ACLAMO is a community agency whose mission is to achieve improved access to economic, educational, social and cultural resources and opportunities for low-income residents of Montgomery County, especially those of Spanish language heritage living in Norristown and Pottstown. Founded in 1977, ACLAMO began as a grassroots initiative providing advocacy, resettlement assistance and emergency food, clothing and shelter out of a church basement in Pottstown, and a Norristown storefront. The only full-service, bilingual agency in Montgomery County, ACLAMO plays a key role in local health, education and human service networks. Our vision is that every child and family, regardless of means, will have access to resources, opportunities and supports needed to ensure strong families, healthy child development, and upward mobility through education. In 2011, ACLAMO programs reached about 3,000, including 1,500 children, families and elderly at our Norristown and Pottstown centers.
Since 2001 ACLAMO has run a unique, "ESL family literacy program" serving Spanish-speaking preschoolers, and Spanish-speaking parents year-round. Its goals are to foster English language acquisition for children and parents, build basic literacy skills and increase families reading together, and prepare child and parent for success in kindergarten. ACLAMO's program integrates education, health access and social services, and provides bilingual wrap-around social services, plus access to health and dental screenings for every child. Each family receives monthly home visits guided by lesson plans and literacy-based parent/child activities, and other developmental goals.
Seven years of evaluation data and annual independent evaluations indicate that parents are improving their English, and their ability to support the health, well-being, emergent literacy and school success of their children, while also enhancing their employability. Each year, about one-half of our mothers become employed at the end of the program. Detailed evaluation reports show that participating ELL children are achieving school readiness with regard to the essential elements most desired by teachers and school officials: developmentally appropriate cognitive and language development; social/emotional skills and independence/self-care skills needed for school; and essential early literacy skills (print awareness, letter recognition, phonemic awareness, receptive vocabulary, background knowledge). Moreover, a 5-year follow-up showed ACLAMO program "graduates" outperforming a matched control group of students in NASD grade K-4 on a range of school achievement measures. Findings point to the crucial role of parents in supporting the emergence of the child as a reader and successful student.