Closing the Education Gap: Family and Community Engagement in Early Childhood Development
July 09, 2014
Author: Kerena Thomas, C’15
As a part of my internship at the Institute for Educational Leadership’s Center for Family and Community Engagement and Early Childhood Development, I conduct research on the benefits of family and community engagement in schools and attend conferences pertaining to the issue. I have researched the equity and opportunity gap for today’s children and the different barriers that certain families are facing in terms of providing an education for their children.
There is abundant research devoted to outlining the benefits of family and community participation in schools. Research shows that when parents are involved in their children’s learning, the children experience numerous benefits such as better academic gains and less behavioral issues. Likewise, with the help of the community, the achievement gap can be further dissolved. Community institutions, such as libraries and museums, can help by providing programs for low-income students and their families.
Cool Culture, an organization that helps more than 50,000 families from income-eligible households enjoy free access to 90 of New York City’s cultural institutions, has created a variety of activities and programs to help eliminate the barriers to achieving learning and literacy gains in early childhood. The Cool Culture approach as a whole demonstrates how an organization can provide rich learning opportunities for young children from low-income households, increase families’ enthusiasm and appreciation for learning that happens in a variety of contexts, and build strong parent–child interactions around fun learning activities.
Additionally, a new collaboration between the Maryland Association of Public Library Administrators and the Maryland State Department of Education promises to close the word gap between low-income learners and their peers. By providing free resources to children affected by poverty, the creators of this program hope to see improvements in both family engagement and early childhood literacy as a result.
Vision To Learn provides free eye exams and free glasses to elementary school students in low-income communities throughout California. Addressing vision problems that keep many low-income children from succeeding in school, Vision To Learn has provided free eye exams to more than 21,000 children and free glasses to 16,000 of them. Vision to Learn is engaging the community in providing glasses for students who would otherwise not be able to afford them.
These three programs are just a few examples of the great work that is occurring around the country to close the achievement gap between low-income students and their peers. By researching these different approaches, compiling them, and sending them to many district leaders throughout the country, we hope that districts will implement these best practices that engage families and communities in children’s learning.
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