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SMILE Award Winner: The Literacy Coalition of Texas PALS Program Supports Local Families

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PALS is the largest program of its kind in Central Texas, offering a bilingual program that provides the parents the skills they need to prepare their children for kindergarten.

Melissa Sanchez, Director of the PALS Programshared their story with us.

The PALS Journey

The Literacy Coalition of Texas’s Parents and Little Scholars (PALS) bilingual program began in Fall of 2014, at four designated locations, to meet a noticeable need for accessible parenting resources, primarily for low-income Spanish speaking families or refugees.

Through tailored parenting coaching classes, parents of young children learn how to support their children's cognitive and social-emotional development. Each week they dive into a different theme that addresses school readiness, such as preparing for student interactions or aiding speech and reading development. Incredibly enough, this comprehensive program is completely free!

In the years that followed their launch, the PALS team partnered with schools, churches, organizations so they could broaden their reach and host satellite offices in various locations. They now have a total of 16 different sites where classes are offer in Central Texas. This is a noteworthy convenience for parents who might be hesitant to travel far from home.

Session Summary

Here’s how it works: Starting in Fall or Spring, families meet for 14 weekly, 2-hour sessions. For the first 90 minutes the parents and children attend separate classes and then join together for the remaining 30 minutes. 

Separation anxiety is quite common in the beginning of the program, but Melissa’s team has become proficient in overcoming this hurdle when needed.

Melissa explained, “One little boy didn’t like to be dropped off, so we let him go to the parent’s class and a teacher would pick him up. He was okay with leaving his mom instead of her leaving him!” 

Keep Reading, Keep Smiling

Literacy is a crucial part of PALS, and is specifically focused on during Week 9 of the program. During the reading session, PALS provides each family with one children’s book to take home. This is such a cherished gift considering 95% of the families have between 0-5 books in their household.


Receiving the SMILE Award has had an incredible impact on PALS participants, as it allowed the program to give TWO brand new books to each family this Spring! The selected titles: A sleepy time book to encourage routine reading before bed Es hora de dormir / Time for Bed and a fun engaging book to read anytime Su propio color / A Color of His Own.

The children really feel valued and important when given a brand-new book. Most of them do not own their own books and receiving one makes them feel like a big kid! They are so proud and all smiles.” Melissa stated.

Learning Material

The PALS parents are fed an abundance of material throughout the programs course. With each session emphasizing the importance of health brain development, the time is filled learning about social emotional learning, literacy, executive functions, behavior, brain science and more.

“A driving questions is – How do we get the parents to understand so they can practice at home and retain the knowledge and skills they’ve learned?” Melissa emphasized.

To make an ongoing impact, the information needs to be digestible and easy to put into practice. To accomplish this, the program is restructured each year to better the family’s chances of success - based on available data, there has already been an 80% gain in understanding each year, specifically focused on the attitude the parent has towards their child’s behavior!

Always Growing

Since the start of the program, interest and involvement have continued to grow. The first graduating class totaled 17 families, while the most recent program had a whopping graduating class of 121 families!

The success of PALS has also been creating job opportunities for many of the graduating PALS parents. With more programs being held each year, the need for instructors is constantly on the rise and graduated parents are the best candidates for such positions. They know exactly how it feels to be in the participant’s shoes, and can offer exceptional support and understanding.

A truly sustainable program, PALS encourages growth on so many levels! 

Why Bulk Bookstore?

Our paths crossed in Spring of 2017, when the Literacy Coalition of Central’s Texas PAL’s team reached out to us for What Do I See? / ¿Qué veo?. Cost and quality were extremely important as they needed to ensure that each family could have a brand-new book to call their own. With the lowest pricing out there - Bulk Bookstore was a perfect match to fill this need.

If your programs promote literacy and learning, know we are here to support you and help make a difference in the lives of everyone you work with. Reach out to a Book Specialist anytime to discuss your unique needs!

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