TRC Read to Kids

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Monday, March 13, 2017

Voices of homeless youth

The Reading Connection works with at-risk children in different settings, including homeless shelters. Most of the information we find, and eventually provide to you, comes in the form of research studies or news reports. We rarely hear from the kids themselves.

In the video featured below, you'll hear candid, and sometimes heartbreaking, descriptions of the stark realities kids face, as well as insights into the far-reaching effects of homelessness and caring adults in a young person's life. This video has been provided by The SchoolHouse Connection, a new national organization promoting success for children and youth experiencing homelessness.  

This video spotlights the voices of homeless youth. From SchoolHouse Connection's Education and Homelessness: Young Children to Young Adults series, "this video features four young people talking about their homeless experiences and sharing advice for educators and service providers."

Although the young people featured in this video are older than those TRC typically serves, many of them were homeless as younger children. They provide important insights to what it is like to be a homeless kid and shine a light on the fact that experiencing homelessness in a family can contribute to a teen becoming homeless on their own -- an "unattended youth." 

A recent study of homeless and formerly homeless youth found that 47 percent experienced homelessness both with their family, and on their own.

In the video, the teens talk about what education means to them: stability, opportunity, escape. Not only did school provide structure, safety, heat, food, and support, learning itself was empowering. By supporting reading development, TRC's Read-Alouds help kids be more successful at school and make learning more enjoyable.

The teens also offer some advice.
  • Don't single kids out -- use discretion
  • Encourage -- the challenges of homelessness can damage a kid's confidence
  • Respect -- sometimes when a victim receives service, it feels like they are being treated like the criminal instead
  • Provide support, but respect boundaries -- don't become a parent figure for a child if you aren't able to fulfill that role
  • Follow through -- that's essential to building trust
  • Be empowering -- teach kids how to advocate for themselves
  • Don't judge a book by its cover. Never assume. Just be yourself and have a conversation
  • Listen -- and seek to understand, not judge. Then advocate for the child throughout their journey through homelessness

Watch the video to hear these young people share their experiences. Their message is important and powerful, and it tells you so much more than a research report ever could.

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