Education

Update: Parents key to building better babies

Studies have found that parental involvement is more important to a child’s success, at every age and every grade level, than family income or education.

That’s why at Studer Community Institute, we are reaching out to parents to find ways to help parents help their children succeed in school and in life.

As a program manager, my focus primarily is parent outreach. I regularly visit and meet with various organizations, agencies, churches and people to find out how best to assist parents of children ages 0 to 3 to get an early start to build babies brains and prepare them for kindergarten.

Since January, I’ve been on a mission to build relationships with people and establish partnerships with agencies and organizations that have close contact with or engaged programs that involve parents and children.

The goal is to put in place or build upon a program that effectively serves parents in their ongoing and never-ending role of helping their young children reach important developmental milestones.

Besides obvious places like Head Start, the Early Learning Coalition or VPK programs, a good place to find people and programs already in place is in churches.

At St. John Divine Missionary Baptist Church, I met with the Rev. Joseph Marshall to share my initiatives in early education and get any suggestions or ideas from him.

At his church on Jordan Street right off Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, Marshall has instituted Wednesday Night Live. The weekly program serves children 5 to 18 years old. Marshall created the curriculum that focuses on areas to develop young people using life skills, public speaking and financial literacy.

Once a month the young people lead a Sunday service, discussing what they’ve learned in the program and putting their training and talents to use.

Through our meeting, Marshall became interested in providing something of usefulness for parents and children 0 to 3 years. In his church are several single mothers with young children. It makes sense, he said, to reach out and assist them because waiting until the children are 5 years old, in some cases, may be too late.

Our early learning task force committee agreed that another way to reach parents is through youth sports. Among the athletic groups I met with included West Pensacola Athletic Association.

Johnnie Blackmon has for many years organized youth baseball in Pensacola. Even though the children in the league are older than 0 to 3, many of them have younger siblings. At their practices and games, we can reach out to the parents and work on getting them engaged and involved in our initiatives in early education.

Sometimes it takes word of mouth to spread the message. That’s precisely how I got in contact with Wanda Brown, creator of Heart Heroes & Company.

Brown writes and publishes books for children directly related to early learning. The Heart Heroes received endorsement and funding from the Early Learning Coalition of Escambia County. Andy Marlette, editorial writer and cartoonist for the Pensacola News Journal, created and drew characters for the book project. In discussion, she pointed out that children learn through word, song an dance, and the Heart Heroes could in some way fit into the early learning initiative that SCI has started.

I am greatly encouraged by the people I meet and the places I go to share what we’re doing to reach parents and get insight and ideas on ways to find the best way to help young children get for kindergarten.

We know that parents are their children’s first teachers and if we are to have any success to build better babies, we have to reach parents to help them become the best first teachers they can be for their babies’ earliest years and beyond.

If you want to help or know someone who has ideas, suggestions or just want to talk about SCI’s early education and parent outreach initiatives, email rdogan@studeri.org, or call (850) 529-6485.