Jun 28

United Way of Greater Greensboro funds programs and initiatives addressing the critical needs in our community in the areas of Education, Income/Self-Sufficiency, and Health. We recognize that children are the future and deserve opportunities to grow and become successful.  Here are some insights from Jacob Rosenberg, student at The Early College at Guilford, Intern at United Way of Greater Greensboro.

Famous author G.K. Chesterton once said, “There is a great deal of difference between an eager man who wants to read a book and a tired man who wants a book to read.” A study by Purdue assistant professor of development studies, Jennifer Dobbs-Oates, is putting new validity behind this statement.

Her study’s focus was on, “low-income preschoolers ages 3-5,” and asked parents questions about the level of interest their children had in reading. The study found that students who showed an early interest in reading, “[were] more likely to show positive, adaptive behavior [rather] than negative, disruptive kinds of behavior.” However, it is just not reading for the sake of reading that helps. “It’s like a three-legged stool – learning and behavior aren’t enough, you also need to incorporate a child’s interests and motivation,” said Dobbs-Oates.

Think about this in context. Here is Sam, a student in the 2nd grade class who is reading well above grade level.  Next to him is Rachel, who is struggling to read at a first grade level.  Is Sam smarter than Rachel?  Or, was Rachel deprived of the tools to help her learn at an early age? By giving children books when they are young, we empower them to become better students and better people. Talk to your kids, learn what interests they have and make learning personal. As parents and responsible members of the community, we must show children that learning is something they can grow to love.

Oftentimes we think that to change a child’s behavior it is merely a function of he or she changing.  In reality, the parents and families must collectively adjust their actions and mindset so that children can understand the importance of learning.

This kind of family wide change also addresses the problem of obesity. Dr. Dennis Clements of Duke often tells families, “Obesity is a family event, not an individual event.”  He offers advice for how to make the changes necessary to truly change the way we live. Our problems are not things that can be done away with ease, no matter how fool-proof the product seemed at 2 a.m. on that infomercial.

If we want to give our children the best future possible, it means change by all of us. United Way is committed to making changes for the better. The Thriving at 3 initiative operates under the premise that children who are physically and emotionally healthy by age three are more likely to be successful in school and in life—and a focus on early literacy is a key component.

Change is scary, and it is hard. However, when we realize the impact that we have on someone else’s life, it makes change a lot easier. Any child, including myself, can tell you that a parent’s help learning makes everything easier. From a teacher’s lesson plan to the everyday complications of growing up, communication in some form with a mentor is unimaginably helpful. Someday we can all hope to be lucky enough to help someone as much as our mentors have helped us. Let’s make someday as soon as possible.

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What do you think should be done to help early child development?

What do you see as a key to the future of our children’s education?

Comment below and start the discussion…….

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Mar 25

We are proud to receive this acknowledgement in the News & Record as we continue to strengthen this important Early Care & Education initiative.

 Born Reader

   You can buy baby bibs, sippy cups and tiny little T-shirts proudly emblazoned with this slogan. I love the sentiment, but unfortunately it is simply not true. Readers are made, not born. The process of learning to read requires great effort on the part of teachers, librarians and others, but it is ultimately   the parents who are the child’s first and most important reading teacher.

   The formula for “making” a reader is as much art as science, but there are a few things we know for sure: Phonemic awareness (the ability to hear and identify individual sounds within a stream of speech) is a basic building block for reading; so parents who talk frequently to their children, especially during the first eight to 10 months of life, greatly increase the child’s level of phonemic awareness. Print awareness (the recognition that words on a page have meaning) is another essential building block for reading. Parents who read regularly to their infants and expose them to a diverse array of appropriate reading materials are using some of the most effective strategies for making sure that a child becomes a good reader.

   The research is clear also on this point: What happens during the first three years of life determines much about whether a child will become a successful learner.  

   The United Way of Greater Greensboro knows this research well. Through its Thriving at 3 program (thrivingat3.org), United Way has become a champion for programs that provide parents with the resources and information they need to become their child’s first teachers.

   Thriving at 3 is a community collaboration with a simple premise: Children who are healthy, physically and emotionally, by age 3 are more likely to be successful in school and in life.

   Recently, United Way of Greater Greensboro funded an expansion of Family Place, a weekly library program that connects parents of infants and toddlers with child-development experts. The new program takes place every Saturday morning at the McGirt-Horton Branch in northeast Greensboro.

   “We supported the Mc-Girt-Horton library because we believed that having the resources of the library in such close proximity to the families that Thriving at Three serves would be an integral part of the success of the program,” said Susan Wiseman, one of the donors to United Way’s Tocqueville Society. “It is a   beautiful and welcoming place that provides meeting space, books and enrichment programs that are essential to the healthy development of young children.”

   Family Place builds on the knowledge that parental involvement and supportive communities play a critical role in young children’s growth and development.

   It connects parents with the resources, programs and services offered at the library and other family   service agencies, and it creates the network families need to nurture their children’s development during the critical first years of life. For many families, a Family Place program is their first visit to a library.

   At a typical Family Place program, children listen to stories; play with blocks, puzzles, arts and crafts; and engage in other age-appropriate activities while their parents are learning about early childhood development issues from a local expert.  

   In recent months, Family Place workshops have included a speech pathologist, a teacher for the visually impaired, a nutritionist and a child-development specialist. These professionals interact with the parents and answer their questions in a relaxed environment.

   “In addition to asking questions that may not have come up in regular visits with a pediatrician, at a Family Place program many of the parents have been quite comfortable asking delicate questions about their child’s development,” said Christine Griffith, one of the librarians who runs the program. “It’s been a real benefit to parents who may not normally   have easy access to these professionals.”

   Brandon Bensley, another children’s librarian involved with the project, points out that “the learning process begins earlier than many parents realize, and Family Place offers   a way for parents to discover some amazing things about the developmental process of their young children.”

   Until the day comes that babies are born reading, the efforts of United Way, the library and other community resources are   essential to helping us become a community of readers.

   See you at the library.

   Steve Sumerford (steve.sumerford@greensboronc.gov) is assistant director of the Greensboro Public Library.

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