Award-winning Early Childhood Program in Florence 1 provides support, information for families
Early childhood learning is the foundation for learning later in life. From birth to three-years-old, the brain grows at a remarkable rate. In Florence 1 Schools, the Parent Center offers a variety of programs to help cultivate family engagement and learning as early as birth up until a child enters school.
The Florence 1 Parents as Teachers program was recognized as a Blue Ribbon Affiliate of the Parents As Teachers National Center. To receive the designation the center had to undergo a rigorous year-long self-study and National Center review.
“This award demonstrates to our community that Florence One Schools has a high-quality Parents as Teachers Program,” said Florence 1 Director of School Readiness, Floyd Creech. “Our parent educators are diligently working with pre-school children in the community to ensure that they will be ready to enter school.”
In the Parents as Teachers program, parent educators conduct home visits twice a month for one hour each visit.
“Our goal is to strengthen the family using the latest brain research, child development and early learning information to encourage them to interact and take a part in their child’s education as early as possible,” said Parenting Coordinator Melanie McMillan. “We want all children to learn, grow and develop to realize their fullest potential.”
McMillan said that even though the home visitors have backgrounds in education the point of the visit is for them to serve as a support for parents as they learn how to teach their child.
“Our home visitors have extensive backgrounds in early childhood education and some of them have worked as social workers in the past but we don’t go into those visits as teachers,” McMillan said. “We partner with the parent; we empower the parent. We encourage them. We provide any information that they might need.”
During each visit, parents learn how to make simple educational toys from items around the house.
“We talk a lot about brain development and milestones and each visit we take an age-appropriate activity and we demonstrate for the parent how to use that activity to build their child’s skills,” McMillan said. “We also invest in a lot of age-appropriate books and we bring those each and every visit for a storytime. Those books are left behind and we encourage the parent to read daily.”
Language and literacy skills in children grow from exposure to written and spoken words. By encouraging parents to read and providing new books on a regular basis, parent educators are reinforcing the importance of parents in their child’s development.
Families not in PAT can still receive books through book distribution programs that work with local businesses, pediatricians and several schools within Florence 1.
“With Start2Read our Early Learning Specialists, who are all retired teachers, distribute books at events with four schools that we’ve identified and they talk to parents about reading,” McMillan said. “Along with the book, parents get a guide sheet that has other extended activities on it to boost that child’s language and literacy skills. Several local businesses allow our Early Learning Specialists to come in and speak to their employees a few minutes before or after their break and hand books out to them as well.”
Reach Out And Read pulls in another important resource in growth and development: pediatricians. During wellness visits children receive a new book, building their library and developing a positive association with their doctor.
McMillan said that books are not duplicated across their programs so families could participate in more than one and have a nice collection of books.
The Parent Center offers workshops which give parents a chance to socialize with other parents who have children around the same age. It also offers the Parent Center staff an opportunity to provide training such as fire safety and car seat safety.
“We want to empower the parents; we want them to know that they are their child’s first teacher,” McMillan said. “We want to give them the knowledge and the skills to build school readiness. We want to make sure that every single child, regardless of who they are, where they came from, is successful. We want to set them up for success in life.”
Parents who have preschool children from birth to age four who are interested in becoming involved in these programs are encouraged to call the Florence 1 Schools Office of Parent Education Services at 843-758-6456.