Parents are each child's first and most important teacher
Parent relationships and ESLC
Every study that evaluates what impacts a child’s reading readiness suggests that the role of the parent is key. The human brain is pre-wired to learn how to walk and talk. However, this is not true of reading. Parents must do certain things from birth forward to prepare a child’s brain for reading.
For decades, educators have tried to find ways to engage parents in their child's educational journey with some success. East Side Learning Center's program, Parents and Children Together (PACT) is a creative, thoughtful solution. It is also affordable.
However, we've learned that parent involvement in school varies by culture, family practices, income, and past experiences. No single approach is effective with all cultures and all generations.
ESLC believes that the key to helping more children succeed in school begins at birth, and that a child's first teacher is the parent(s). The parent is also each child's most important teacher. We also believe that every parent wants their child to learn. If someone consistently stimulates a child's brain with pre-literacy activities, they thrive in school. If these activities continue while the teacher is teaching reading, the child’s progress will be accelerated.
The challenge is that pre-literacy and literacy activities, parents engage in with their children, are learned behaviors. Parents learn them from their parents. If your mom read to you as a two-week-old infant, as a toddler, as a child, you are more likely to read to your child. If your mom described every step of putting on a coat, you are more likely to do that, too. If your dad had you count apples as you weighed them, you may do the same. These simple activities create the foundation for reading and learning, for building vocabulary to support reading comprehension, and for helping you connect the dots between symbols and meaning.
On the other hand, what if...
- You grew up in a home with very few books? Or a family where children were to be seen and not heard?
- Your parents didn’t speak English?
- Your family respected educators so much that they viewed their role in education as taking a back seat?
- School was traumatic for your parents, and their parents, and their parents? Would you want to be involved in that institution where your mother or father felt intimidated by teachers?
- Your family immigrated to the United States and had no idea that American educators expect parents to be highly involved?
- Your parents didn’t know that using descriptive language with infants and toddlers increases vocabulary and creates the brain connections for reading?
How would you know what to do with your child to support brain growth? How would you know how to navigate the U.S. education system?
Like me, you’d have to learn it. Even though I went to college, I didn’t even know to look for a book about stimulating my child's brain to prepare her for school.
I learned about it from a Parent Educator. My Parent Educator visited me for the first time two weeks after I brought my infant daughter home. I was amazed to learn that I should read Dr. Seuss to her at two weeks old. I didn’t know that I should not speak in baby talk while changing or dressing her. My Parent Educator told me to use natural, descriptive language and modeled it for me.
Because of what we know today about parenting, brain science, education, and bias, I believe we need to rethink our parent engagement programs. We need to partner with parents long before school starts. We need to reach them in non-institutional settings. I don't know exactly what this looks like, but I would like ESLC to take on a leadership role in testing new ideas in partnership with our parents. We are reading about promising practices around the nation that we could test here, but all of these programs have a dedicated Parent Educator.
As the Executive Director of ESLC, I dream of hiring a Parent Educator who can partner with parents where they live or in a coffee shop. The Parent Education could share the simple things a parent can do at home every day to accelerate their child’s reading growth.