Education

Parent involvement crucial to child’s success

Given what we now know about brain development, it is increasingly clear that parents should never leave to schools alone the important tasks of language and literacy development.

We should be doing more to enable and encourage parents to talk with the children and invest at least 30 minutes daily for reading.

It is a bonding experience that children will remember for a lifetime, and one that will form the foundation for learning and developmental milestones later in their formative years.

It is the primary reason that Studer Community Institute is committed to enhancing brain development in babies through parent outreach programs.

For the past month at Moreno Court, up to 10 mothers with children between 0 to 3 years old have participated in a parent program that offers tips, tools and skills to use at home to increase communication, cuddling and comforting their babies.

The one hour, once-a-week, eight-session program uses educational information from the University of Chicago Thirty Million Word Initiative and LENA Start, emphasizing the key component of the three T’s: Tune in, Take to and Take Turns.

Most parents have the ability to talk, interact and engage with their children in daily encounters and activities. This simple but crucial task is at the heart of Thirty Million Words strategies. We are using and building on those important principles in our parent programs in Pensacola.

Moreno Court is the first of several complexes under the Pensacola Area Housing Commission’s umbrella that SCI will offer parenting sessions.

Next on the list are Attucks and Gonzalez Court, with the aim of reaching many parents in areas identified as “pockets of poverty.”

In general, children from these neighborhoods start school less prepared for the academic demands that now are placed on them at the kindergarten level.

These areas with higher poverty rates are served by elementary and middle schools that receive lower grades on state standardized tests than more well off peer neighborhoods.

The primary purpose of my effort is to assist parents with children 0 to 3 years old, so they can do their best to ensure that their children are prepared and ready when they start school.

A critical part of our mission to improve the quality of life everyone in Northwest Florida is getting more children ready for kindergarten. To help the children means helping their parents.

One of the most critical predictors of a children’s literacy is mother’s literacy level. The more education a mother has, the more likely she is to read to her child.

Studies show that 77 percent of children whose mothers have a college education were read to every day, while only 49 percent of children whose mothers had a high school education were read to daily. Likewise, children in poor families are less likely to be read to daily.

A National Household Education Survey found that 46 percent of children in families of poverty were read to every day, compared with 61 percent of children in families living above the poverty line.

Some researchers have found that the home literacy environment can be an even stronger predictor of literacy and academic achievement than family income. That home environment includes the literacy level of parents, the parents’ educational achievement and the availability of reading materials, among other factors.

Studies consistently show that children who don’t get enough verbal communication and positive interaction with parents are put at a disadvantage before they ever step in a classroom.

Research also indicates that both quantity and quality of language are essential for vocabulary development, which is an indicator of third-grade reading proficiency. Children who can’t read to learn by the end of third grade are four times likely to drop out of high school.

Our objective is to offer parents support and positive reinforcement as they strive to become their child’s first and most important teacher.

It is axiomatic that children who have engaged and involved parents are better prepared to enter Voluntary Pre-kindergarten, Head Start or any other early education program.

Parental involvement in education is crucial for a child’s success. Regardless of family income or background, students whose parents are involved in their schooling are more likely to have higher grades and test scores, attend school regularly, have better social skills, show improved behavior and adapt well to school.

Nearly 85 percent of the brain is fully developed by age 3, and we believe parents, as a child’s first teacher, have the power and potential to impact and improve brain development in their children.

Our county’s future well-being depends on developing baby’s brains and getting children ready for kindergarten.

Through parent outreach, SCI every day, in many ways, is working to putting in place a blueprint that provides services to help build a brain, build a life, build a community — one parent, one child, one program at a time.

If you want to help or know someone who has ideas, suggestions or just want to talk about SCI’s labor of love in early learning, email rdogan@studeri.org, or call (850) 529-6485.