Foreword by: Sonia Nieto
Publication Date: April 8, 2022
Series: Visions of Practice Series
What if the families of students most impacted by the opportunity gap somehow had the power to organize whatever activities they felt would best help their children succeed? That’s the question that began Families with Power/Familias con Poder (FWP), a grassroots organization of low-income students and caregivers in Northampton, MA. Through vignettes and interviews, this premiere book in Sonia Nieto’s Visions of Practice Series shares the stories and lessons FWP learned along the way. Inspired by Paulo Freire’s educational philosophy and the radical tradition of the Highlander Folk School , a group of real families with few material resources and educators connected with each other, found common ground, and built their own programs to address the needs of their children. Readers will get an inside look at the benefits, successes, and challenges of more than a dozen years of student and family engagement in the community and school as FWP tackled issues ranging from academics, race, and class to immigration and public health.
Mary Cowhey is a cofounder of Families with Power/Familias con Poder. She was an elementary public school teacher for 22 years. She is a grassroots community organizer, parent, union activist, and winner of numerous awards for teaching, including a Milken National Educator Award, the Massachusetts Public Health Association’s Frontline Award, and MA Agriculture in the Classroom’s Excellence in Agricultural Science Teaching Award.
“(This model) works particularly well with families of marginalized communities who are often unheard and unseen in school matters, but the underlying message of respect will work well with any community… Part memoir, part family engagement text, and part grassroots organizing manual, Families With Power is the most inspired and significant book on family involvement in education that I’ve encountered in my long career.”
—From the Foreword by Sonia Nieto, professor emerita, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
“Families With Power shares portraits of a teacher and her beloved community working to create inclusive spaces to teach one another about language, math, gardening, financial literacy, and justice. Drawing on the practice of radical educators Paulo Freire and Myles Horton, Cowhey transforms the tepid concept of ‘family involvement’ and builds power with traditionally marginalized parents. This book teaches through storytelling, understanding that readers must ‘make the road by walking’ in their own communities.”
—Linda Christensen, director, Oregon Writing Project; author, Reading, Writing, and Rising Up and Teaching for Joy and Justice
“The gift that Mary Cowhey and Families With Power offer is an embodied praxis for families and educators engaged in cultivating hopeful conditions in their schools and communities. This book will be an inspiration to all caregivers and educators who believe in the power of families and communities to work for social, ecological, economic, linguistic, and racial justice. As educators, our reciprocal responsibility is to listen deeply, co-conspire with community, and act locally and collectively for a more just future for all our children and families. This book is essential, timely, and powerful!”
—Kristen B. French, professor of elementary education and director, Center for Education, Equity, and Diversity, Western Washington University