Highlights from the 2012 Parent-Child Home Program National Conference

The Parent-Child Home Program held its annual conference at the Long Island Marriott Hotel, located in Uniondale, New York, on May 21-22, 2012. With roughly 150 people in attendance, the conference was open to all PCHP Home Visitors, Coordinators, and supervisors, along with people interested in starting new sites, other early childhood professionals, and funders. The event included speakers, workshops, and forums that touched on subjects ranging from early brain development to essential school readiness skills to hands-on art activities that promote early literacy. Stacey A. Washington, a Home Visitor from the Charleston County (SC) School District, said that she “had a wonderful time and the information was in abundance.”

The conference opened with keynote speaker Dipesh Navsaria, MPH, MSLIS, MD, who spoke on the topic, “Books Build Better Brains: Literacy as the Key to School Readiness.” Dr. Navsaria emphasized how literacy is the fundamental skill for learning and, without an early exposure to books, children could lose the skills needed for success in school. To support this claim, Dr. Navsaria introduced the audience to principles of early brain and child development from the medical perspective, with a focus on the central place that literacy holds in developmental health. One audience member exclaimed that she “absolutely loved Dr. Dipesh Navsaria and wish more pediatricians were as interested [in early childhood literacy] as he!”

Other programs that participants found useful were workshops that emphasized the Home Visitor-parent relationship. Two workshops that addressed this were “Barriers and Strategies to the Successful Engagement of Parenting Teens” and “Together to Kindergarten.” In the first workshop, participants discussed different ways to engage teen parents and the different goals they may have in comparison to adult parents. In “Together to Kindergarten” participants learned about different ways to engage immigrant parents in the American educational system and activities that would help them feel included in their new community. “Maria Isabel Martinez [the leader of the workshop] was fantastic! She was knowledgeable, fun, interactive and a pleasure to hear,” said one workshop participant.

The conference also featured hands-on workshops such as “Process-Driven Art for the Young Child” and “Develop Comprehension through Making Board Books.” The hands-on sessions allowed participants to experience for themselves the skills these activities would develop in young children. For example, in “Process-Driven Art for the Young Child” Home Visitors and Coordinators learned the difference between process -driven art and product -driven art and which art activities were developmentally appropriate for PCHP home visits.

The goal of the conference is to provide both theoretical and practical information that can be applied to home visiting field practice. Overall, participant feedback indicated that this goal was achieved and those that attended felt re-energized. As one participant exclaimed, “The keynote speakers wowed us! [The conference] was amazing, and I am leaving very motivated.”

   
Coordinators learn how Blankslate Board Books can be integrated into home visits (left) and show off some of their literary creations (right).
   
Michele Morrison announces the winner of a Flip camera door prize (left) and participants look for new books and prizes to bring home for their own students at the market (right).