A Preschool Program Works to Engage Low-Income Parents Early and Often

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Access to quality preschool has become a hot topic in the US. Research indicates that the early years of a child's life are critically important for development of language and numeracy skills, but access to high quality preschools is uneven across the country. Some cities and states are focusing on early childhood education as a way to shrink the achievement gap before kids even get to kindergarten.

San Antonio, Texas is taking its own approach to the problem with a preschool program for its low-income residents that focuses on including family members in the school experience. Preschools participating in the Pre-K for San Antonio program not only have highly qualified early childhood educators, but they also have designated "parent specialists" who plan activities, give parenting advice and support, and even offer some professional development. It's part of an effort go make parents feel like their child's preschool is their community too, writes Juleyka Lantigua-Williams in an article in The Atlantic.

Stephanie Rivera said her son Jude, 4, has benefitted greatly from attending. “We love it here. He loves his teacher, and there are so many activities for them to do, and outside of school there’s a lot of stuff to do. It’s great,” Rivera said. She’s also already applying what Jude learns in school to her youngest child. “His brother’s only a year old. So we try to implement that at home: ‘Okay, what’s the problem and what’s the resolution?’” Rivera, who is a stay-at-home mom, also volunteers at the center, “which is good for me because I know what’s going on in the school, I feel like I’m helping, and I get to know the staff and the teachers a lot better.” Harper said that parent volunteers “own this place”—helping make flyers, decorating rooms for activities, setting up for book fairs and big events, doing whatever is asked.