Teaching parents how to teach their toddlers: Seattle-area program yields lasting benefits
Nearly a decade before Seattle voters agreed in 2014 to subsidize a preschool program for the city’s families, a small, pilot effort for even younger children debuted in 106 living rooms across King County.
Organizers approached parents with a simple sales pitch: Did they want help preparing their children for school? If so, the Parent-Child Home Program would send trained visitors to spend 30 minutes with them twice a week, demonstrating how to get the most educational value out of playing and reading with their 2- and 3-year-olds.
The visitors brought a book and a toy to use in each visit, which the families kept for free.
The hope was that these short, frequent sessions, spread over two years, would keep many poor children from falling far behind richer peers before they even started kindergarten.
New research suggests that’s just what’s happening.
Last February, Parent-Child released the first study of the program’s effectiveness in King County. It tracked 200 children over five years and found that, after completing the program, they were better prepared for kindergarten and, even more important, those gains lasted. By third grade, the participants’ scores on state reading and math tests were still higher than those of classmates from similar backgrounds.
As Seattle joins a growing crowd of cities rushing to provide high-quality preschool for their neediest 3- and 4-year-olds, those results back the argument that it might be smart — for the families and society as a whole — to support even younger children, too.
Parent interest in Parent-Child is strong — the program now serves 1,200 families a year in King County, and has a waiting list filled largely by word-of-mouth.
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