These problems threaten children's chances for success in far too many of our communities. Prevention programs work best when parents, students, schools, law enforcement officials, and communities join together to fight back. For example, schools and community members can provide mentoring and after-school programs to give children safe havens from violence and alternatives to drugs. Communities can also put students on the right path by providing a quality education and school-to-work programs that lead to college, technical training, or good jobs after high school. A future filled with hope and promise is the best answer to the hopelessness of drugs. Solving drug and safety problems is a difficult task, and each community will have to find its own answers. But when communities unite, real progress can be made.
Programs for parents can include academic classes, literacy training, career preparation, early childhood education, children's health, and assistance in finding helpful services in the community. When adults become involved in parenting education, parent-child communication improves and children with developmental delays in speech, social skills, and other areas overcome these challenges more readily. High-quality parenting programs engage parents early, sometimes even before their child's birth, and focus on the critical early years of a child's development.
A recent study of family literacy found that economically at-risk preschool children whose parents received significant amounts of parenting education performed better on vocabulary test -- an important measure of literacy -- than children whose parents received little parenting instruction.
Changes in families and communities have limited the amount of contact many youths have with adults who can offer advice and act as role models. To help fill in the gap, interested citizens -- from employers to college students to senior citizens -- can participate in mentor programs which can provide emotional support and guidance to young people. Mentors can help with schoolwork, job skill development, career planning, parenting, and the many other challenges that face young people today.
Many different kinds of community organizations, such as civic groups, men's and women's associations, service clubs, and religious groups can organize support for youngsters. In many communities, senior citizens are putting their experience and expertise to work on behalf of children. Nearly 40 percent of Americans over 60 years of age are now involved in some type of volunteer activity. Volunteers can serve as tutors or teacher aides, work in the library, or help with after-school activities, such as music and story telling. In one school, grandparents served on patrol and as school guards to help keep kids safe.
Communities can make summer activities available to young people through schools, cultural institutions, park districts, and other public and private agencies. Activities might include programs at recreation centers, science and art museums, libraries, and camping sites. These programs are particularly important for low-income children. With limited access to such learning resources at home as books and computers, low-income children can suffer serious academic losses over the summer. Those months need not become a time for losing ground academically or getting into trouble. With the help of community resources, it can be a time of productive learning.
Two examples of community programs that support family involvement are Parents as Teachers (PAT) and Home Instruction Program for Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY). Missouri's Parents as Teachers program operates in every district of the state and works with parents of children up to 3 years of age. HIPPY is for mothers of children aged 4 and 5, and it offers a curriculum and materials to help moms get their children ready for kindergarten. Local parent aides visit families to explain the program and review lessons. PAT and HIPPY have been found to improve children's achievement and adjustment to school.
Supporting Family Involvement In Education Makes Good Sense
Encouraging family involvement is a good way to enhance your community's financial investment in education. If all parents of children ages 1 through 9 spent just one hour a day, five days a week, reading with their children or helping with schoolwork, the total number of learning hours would be in the thousands, maybe even millions. The total dollar value of all that teaching is enormous -- and the value of our children is incalculable.
All across America, communities are pulling together to strengthen education because they know it's the key to a strong local economy, a good quality of life, and a brighter future for everyone.
For communities, making education better means supporting families and schools. Families are responsible for raising children, of course, and schools are responsible for teaching children. But in these difficult times, schools and parents often can't do the job alone, try as they might. They need to reach out for the help of neighbors and others in their community.
That's where service organizations and agencies, religious groups, volunteer groups, clubs, community leaders, and caring citizens can help build a true "community partnership for learning" -- and make their community a better place to live, work, and learn.
Here's what your community can do:
Research shows that when parents do get more involved, their children get better grades and test scores, graduate from high school at higher rates, have greater enrollment in higher education, and are better behaved. In all these ways, family involvement in education helps children to grow up to be productive, responsible members of the community.
These efforts will be rewarded. Communities that have good schools and better educated residents are almost always safer, more stable communities where businesses and families thrive. And these communities can be magnets for new businesses and jobs.
Support the effort to help children learn. Find out what resources are available in your community for young people and help expand them. Get personally involved as a volunteer. For more information about these and other ways you and your neighbors can help support and connect schools and families, just turn the page.
"Communities that work to make
education better are communities
with bright futures."
-- Richard W. Riley
U.S. Secretary of Education
Greater family involvement in education is supported by the Family Involvement Partnership for Learning, which includes over 100 community, business, family, education, and religious organizations nationwide.
Your group or community is cordially invited to join the Family Involvement Partnership. For information, call one of the partners, the U.S. Department of Education, at 1-800-USA-LEARN. Or write to:
Family Involvement Partnership for Learning
600 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20202-8137
When you write, be sure to include your name, title, organizational affiliation, and address. We'll send you helpful material, including the useful guide, An Invitation to Your Community: Building Community Partnerships for Learning. Also, ask us how your community can be a site for one of our monthly satellite town meetings that bring together Americans from around the nation to discuss ways to improve our schools.
Last Update: 10/4/98
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