A new study by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, highlights a program that is helping Latino parents to work with their young children to prepare them for school.
The study looks at the “Abriendo Puertas” parent program, which is being used by Head Start, the Los Angeles Unified School District, and is expanding nationally. It already has sites in 31 states serving 22,000 families. Many Hispanic children enter school already behind academically and developmentally, and the program aims to close those gaps.
Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors is taught in Spanish or English and is composed of ten sessions that focus on topics including early learning, communication, nutrition, parents as advocates and using the library. Participants are parents with children of ages zero through 5 years old.
Principal investigator Margaret Bridges of UC Berkeley said that the program has proved effective because the interactions parents have with their children at a young age determine how prepared they will be when they enter school.
The research was based on a survey given to parents before and after completing the program, and was taken by 623 parents in 35 different programs. About 85 percent of parents surveyed were immigrants, mostly from Mexico.
A survey given to parents showed that they improved their knowledge about early learning and brain development. They also increased their knowledge about how to help their children be successful at school and how to develop literacy.
When parents were asked seven questions about how to help young children be successful in school about 12 percent of parents answered correctly before taking part in Abriendo Puertas, and 77 percent answered correctly after completing the program.
Parents also reported feeling much more confident about their parenting skills after taking part in the program.
“Parents have a real hunger for information that will enrich their parenting, and they have indicated that Abriendo Puertas has been an invaluable resource,” said Sylvia Puente, executive director of the Latino Policy Forum, in the report. “Parents, organizations and schools have expressed tremendous gratitude for having this incredible program available in Spanish.”
Other programs with similar parent involvement efforts include HIPPY and AVANCE.