Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Home Visits Help Latino Families Prepare Preschool Kids for Class

The Pew Home Visiting Campaign hosted a webinar Tuesday spotlighting three programs that are helping Latino parents prepare their young children for school through home visits. Through these visits, parents learn how to be their child’s first teacher.

A 2009 study by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley found that Hispanic toddlers lag behind white children in language and thinking skills by as early as age two or three–well before they reach school age. These programs seek to close that gap.

Reporters should consider looking into these programs in a feature story or be on the lookout for other similar initiatives. Here’s a little background on each:

(1) AVANCE. The program holds weekly three-hour group sessions for parents. They are held in Spanish for immigrant parents. Mothers learn about child development, nutrition and community resources such as the library. They also are taught how to make toys that are learning aids. Once a month, parents and children are observed in a play activity in their home. Chief program officer Glendelia Zavala said the visits shed light on learning needs. The visitors also check that parents are using the toys properly to instruct their child.

“Ultimately the goal is to help parents help themselves,” she said.

(2) HIPPY, or Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters. The program was developed in Israel and provides a three-year curriculum for children ages three to five. Home educators who are parent alumni of the program visit the homes of new participants to instruct parents on the weekly lesson through role-playing. The parents then directly teach their child the lesson.

 Materials are available in English and Spanish. They include story books, activity packets and manipulative shapes. Children learn early literacy and motor skills. Texas HIPPY Center director Carla Mowell said early intervention is very important.

“Sometimes parents are unsure about their own skills,” she said. “That’s where HIPPY comes in and gives them some tangible activities they can do.”

Mowell said surveys of kindergarten teachers of HIPPY graduates found that the teachers thought the children’s skills and attendance rates were higher than those of other students. They also said the parents of HIPPY participants were more likely to volunteer at school.

(3) Nurse-Family Partnership. Registered nurses visit the homes of low-income women twice a month from pregnancy until the child turns two years of age. They focus on a healthy pregnancy and child development.

“Moms become the expert among their peers and this is really important because they told us they shared the lessons,” nurse home visitor Madeline Cruz said.

Going on a home visit yourself will give you some great insight into these programs, even if you’re not a Spanish speaker. On the majority of home visits, the instructors are working with mothers, but with HIPPY I’ve seen fathers involved too–another interesting angle. I’ve reported on both AVANCE and HIPPY in the past and found following along on the visits very rewarding.