What is Parent Engagement?

How important are parents in development of their children?  Most of us would answer, “very important,” and research1 bears that.  Education begins at birth so parents become their children’s first and most influential teachers.  It is not surprising then that parents who are involved in their children’s daily learning at the very earliest ages have children who are better prepared for school.

So what is parent engagement?  Sometimes it’s planned and sometimes spontaneous, but either way it is focusing on the child – being intentional in the moment with the child’s interest in mind.  It may be reading a book to the child and encouraging the child to tell you what he/she sees and thinks is happening.  It is being with the child at his/her level – on the floor or in a small chair – so the child can see your face.

Teachable moments are not simply “teaching” as in 1+1=2.  They are teaching through focused listening, sharing, and showing.  And, they can be anytime, anywhere: on the drive home from school, singing together or pointing out different colors of cars; in the grocery naming all the vegetables and fruits; or at mealtime sharing a favorite moment of the day.

Parent engagement is an intentional activity or conversation involving both parent and child, guided by the child’s interest, abilities and imagination.

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Sometimes, however, parents feel unprepared as a role model and/or face obstacles in their family lives.  That’s why Early Childhood Alliance adopted Parents as Teachers (PAT).  Through PAT both new and experienced parents discover ways to encourage their child’s learning.  ECA’s parent educators work with families, one-on-one in the home, sharing information especially designed for their child’s stages of growth – techniques that nurture their child’s development.  Introducing a variety of learning experiences that can help prepare children from the very earliest age for school and beyond gives parents the knowledge and confidence to be their children’s best teacher.

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Book Buddies is also an early learning program designed to engage parents in their child’s learning.  However, it is offered in small groups with varying ages of children.  Activities provide learning opportunities in literacy, math, science and large and small motor skills, plus social skills as children work and play with other children as well as parents.  Families take home a book and other materials from each session.

Our programs are designed to empower parents within their role as their child’s first and best teacher.  This is especially important as the child begins school.  Parents will always be the best advocate for their child, and they need to be prepared for this role throughout their child’s school career.

1From the Parents as Teachers program: Its impact on school readiness and later school achievement, by J. Pfannenstiel and E. Zigler, 2007.

*Article reprinted from past Enrich Community newsletter.

Contact our Family Support Manager for more information on Parents as Teachers or Book Buddies.

Have a Great Week!

Lisa