Parents asked to help
Caregivers encouraged to spend 15 minutes a day
reinforcing schoolwork; Involvement seen as critical; State to
provide resources for education program.
by Tanika White, Sun, September 30, 2002
For more articles on disabilities and special ed visit
Parent involvement often is praised by teachers and school
administrators as one of the most important factors that
contribute to a child's academic success.
But even more than baking brownies for PTA fund-raisers,
parents are most effectively involved, educators say, when
children see how they feel about learning.
In an effort to make sure that learning continues after
children leave the classroom, the state Department of
Education has launched an initiative to help Maryland parents
and caregivers encourage more children to read, to participate
in school and to enjoy learning.
The program - "Take 15 for the Family: Building a Lifetime of
Learning" - is a collaboration between the state education
department and schools, libraries and businesses across
Maryland that's designed to build a greater awareness that
parent involvement is critical.
"It always worries me when [students] leave our buildings
every day, whether they will have the kind of reinforcement
they need," said Baltimore schools Chief Executive Officer
Carmen V. Russo, at the program's launch last week at Harford
Heights Elementary School in East Baltimore.
"Take 15" refers to 15 minutes, the minimum time parents are
encouraged to spend with their children reading and discussing
school topics. Program officials said parents could engage
children in learning-related activities or conversations while
cooking dinner, shopping or driving.
The program provides resources for parents, including activity
lists, information about free educational programs and
discounts on admission to Port Discovery and the Maryland
It also will have components concentrating on parent skills
and adult literacy. That's particularly important in
Baltimore, where 38 percent of the city's adults are
functionally illiterate - nearly double the statewide
percentage of 20 percent.
"Some parents say they are scared to come into the school,
because they can't read," said Deborah Banks, coordinator of
the Baltimore City Public Schools Title I and Federal Grants
programs. "They're afraid the teacher might ask them a
question they don't know, or ask them to read."
Officials said the state's initiative would help alleviate
One such parent-targeted program, Even Start, has had a
successful three-year run at Harford Heights. In this type of
program, parents are given help with reading skills,
assistance in earning a high school equivalency certificate
and help in finding employment.
"By doing this, [parents] will become literate, and they will
be better able to assist their children with reading," Banks
Russo said she is eager to see other schools take advantage of
the state's literacy initiative.
Parents who have participated in Harford Heights' Even Start
program - which has used the Take 15 philosophy for years -
say they can see the results.
"I take 15 for each of my kids to read to them and then they
read to me," said April Blackwell. Blackwell, 39, could not
read well when she began Even Start but went back to college
and now works at Harford Heights as a paraprofessional.
"My 6-year-old, she wants to read so bad," Blackwell said. "I
tell her, 'You read the words that you can pronounce and I'll
help you with the rest.'"