Parents today lead increasingly busy and stressful lives. Between working one or more jobs while shuttling children to school and events, parents have little time to themselves and may find it easier to plop their tots in front of a television or a toy when they are together. Although both can be used for educational purposes, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Eastern Long Island Chapter is introducing a new program called “Lifted” to help parents take a more active role — not only in their children’s lives, but in their early education as well.
According to the NAACP’s Eastern Long Island Chapter secretary Georgette Grier-Key, “Lifted: A parent leadership academy” is a pilot program sponsored by the organization which is starting in Bridgehampton.
Since October, the NAACP has hosted seminars at the Children’s Museum of the East End on the Bridgehampton Turnpike. The second class in the five-course series was held on Saturday, November 21. The “Lifted” program, explained Grier-Key at Saturday’s meeting, is meant to help parents navigate the educational system and to offer strategies for parents to continue educating their children at home.
“Parents are the best teachers for their children,” noted Nancy Moloney who teaches pre-kindergarten at the Bridgehampton School. “I have taught Bridgehampton kids for 26 years and … I realized that I have to reach out and become partners with parents [in their children's education].”
At Saturday’s class, Moloney was joined by colleague and pre-k teacher Jackie Poole and the Bridgehampton School Superintendent Dr. Dianne Youngblood. The group led a course on the pre-kindergarten through second grade curriculum at the school and presented ways parents could enhance their children’s academic experience.
Because the seminar was focused on younger students, the presentation emphasized the importance of developing language skills. Moloney suggested parents point out different objects in the home and ask the children to name the items. She added that parents should ask questions that require more than a yes or no answer, like “Tell me about the story the teacher read today” or “What are you going to do tomorrow?” Although the questions might appear simple, noted Moloney, they go a long way in helping the young students become literate and conversational beings.
Pre-k teacher Poole made a number of different recommendations for parents with young children. She emphasized creating a routine for kids. Poole recommended parents print out a schedule for the day which shows the clock and the name of the activity. She pointed out this will help children learn how to read a clock and keep track of time. At nighttime, Poole said playing classical music will help lull a child to sleep. For the youngster having difficulty holding a writing instrument, she suggested making the child play with Play Doh. The pliable material, explained Poole, strengthens hands and gives the student a better grip. After purchasing a new toy, Poole encourages parents to sit down and teach their child how to play with it.
“As parents, we can’t just tell children how to do things. We have to model things. Never make assumptions about what your child knows,” noted Poole, who added that play can be a great way to develop language.
Dr. Youngblood noted that parents must act as models as well and make a concerted effort to keep their children intellectually stimulated and challenged. For those parents who tend to preoccupy their children with television, Dr. Youngblood said, “we sometimes gravitate towards the easy babysitter [of the television]. Let’s be mindful of not looking for the easy way out. Children need language.” Dr. Youngblood added that if children see their parents reading around the house they are more likely to be interested in learning to read. She also suggested that parents help their child pen letters to relatives or characters like Santa Claus.
Near the end of the meeting, the educators leading the course noted that children who develop these skills at home will have an easier time grasping academic concepts in school.
“Those who come to school with a lot of words, reading is easier for them,” said Dr. Youngblood, giving an example of this theory.
Although the “Lifted” program benefits parents and children, Grier-Key said the program was still having difficulty maintaining consistent parent attendance. On Saturday, only two parents attended the course although several parents came to a previous session in October.
“I wish we had more parents. This information needs to be shared,” remarked Grier-Key.
“Lifted” will host a course on the “No Child Left Behind” program on Saturday, December 19, at the Children’s Museum of the East End, 376 Sag Harbor/Bridgehampton Turnpike. For more information call 537-8250.