NPR recently published a fascinating interview with Nobel laureate James Heckman, a professor of economics at the University of Chicago and the director of the Center for the Economics of Human Development. They discussed the research behind the recent paper that he co-authored, The Life-Cycle Benefits of an Influential Early Childhood Program. The importance of this paper is that it is the first of its kind to study the impact of high-quality early education programs on children over an extended amount of time.
Mr. Heckman points out that one of the biggest risk-factors that effects student success, particularly in disadvantaged families, is Parental Involvement. Parental Involvement, also known as Parent Engagement, refers to all activities that parents do to help their children succeed in school and life. And there is quite a bit of research out there to show that children with engaged parents are more successful in school and throughout life.
Children who come from disadvantaged backgrounds hear, on average, about 1/3 fewer words per hour than other children due to the different environments in their homes. One way to close that gap is simply by reading to them. Also, encouraging children to participate in activities in which they may fail and learn from their mistakes makes a huge impact.
It’s important that teachers and day care providers understand the importance of parental involvement and know how to communicate that importance to the parents. Encouraging the parents to be involved is key. Parents are busy. Many are working multiple jobs to support their families and are not at home. They are relying on the day care centers to provide the children with skills needed to enter Kindergarten. The Parents as Teaching Partners Program provides easy-to-do, low-cost activities that teachers can suggest to parents. These simple, fun activities will help children develop critical pre-literacy skills.
You can find more information on the importance of parental engagement here: