A Project of the Child Trends News Service Supported by the National Science Foundation

ParentCorps: Engaging Parents from Pre-K and Beyond!

New York, NY (Ivanhoe Newswire)—When it comes to families and school involvement, there is no one-size-fits-all. Every child and family situation is different. Some face racism or linguistic, cultural, and economic barriers. Now researchers are evaluating an early intervention for all teachers, parents, and children that they say has long-lasting impacts.

For pre-k and kindergarten classes, songs and games are educational building blocks. But how can parents get involved? Researchers are studying ParentCorps, a 14-session program for families of children attending pre-k in culturally diverse neighborhoods.

“We’re finding that ParentCorps works over and above the effects of pre-k,” stated Laurie Brotman, PhD, NYU Langone Health & ParentCorps.

During the program for families, school mental health professionals support parents by developing strategies for parent-teacher partnerships capitalizing on the positive qualities of immigrant families and interacting at home.

“So, things like how to play with your child,” continued Brotman.

Think of the acronym fun.

“Follow the child’s lead. You do what they do and narrate as you do it. The interesting thing is like parents, you always want to tell your child what to do no matter what and it happens even in play, but  with fun skills, we want the child to be the lead and the parent to just follow along. So that, that gives the child attention and empowerment. You don’t need 30 minutes or an hour. Concentrated attention from a caregiver is really, really powerful for a young child,” explained Kai-ama Hamer, NYU Langone Health & ParentCorps.

ParentCorps also teaches parents to ignore minor misbehaviors, like whining, since calling attention to the behavior reinforces it.

“Sometimes you just have to breathe deeply. Sometimes you have to walk away,” said Brotman.

The program emphasizes positive family school connections and helps teachers engage families from diverse cultural backgrounds. Hamer is a former New York City school teacher who attended the ParentCorps training and was so inspired she joined the organization. She says ParentCorps had her thinking about parent-teacher interactions in new ways.

“Oftentimes in relationships that teachers have with parents, you can like engage in a bit of a tug of war. But once you realize that they, of course, they love their children, you love them. And only the value is a little bit different. That changed me. I started engaging in relationships with parents as a teacher while I was hunting for their value,” shared Hamer.

Brotman studied the outcomes of ParentCorps in two separate trials with over 1,000 pre-k students, primarily children of color. Three years after the program ended researchers found continued benefits.

“By the end of kindergarten kids who are in programs with ParentCorps had better reading and math skills on standardized tests. By second grade the kids were doing better academically. Most importantly they were doing much better in terms of mental health,” Brotman said.

Supporting early learning at school and at home.

ParentCorps is now in 50 pre-k programs in New York City serving over 3,000 students every year. In addition, ParentCorps is growing in cities in Michigan, Texas and North Carolina. ParentCorps also offers tools for teachers, parents, and children available in multiple languages at www.weareparentcorps.org.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Executive Producer; Milvionne Chery, Field Producer; and Roque Correa, Editor.

Produced by Child Trends News Service in partnership with Ivanhoe Broadcast News and funded by a grant from the Institute of Education Sciences (IES).

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