Parenting programs that help the families of low-income, at-risk children learn how to prepare those children for school are attracting much interest from educators looking for ways to boost student achievement. There are many parenting programs in Denver, but programs for Spanish-speaking families are harder to find.
Doris and Jesus Enriquez have two children who are enrolled in two such parenting programs at Focus Points Family Resource Center. Doris and Jesus’s children, Adan, age three, and Naomi, age five, were in the Parents as Teachers Program (PAT) for children from birth to age three, and in Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY) program for kids from age three to five years old. Adan is currently enrolled in HIPPY, and Naomi graduated last year.
Doris and Jesus are originally from Mexico and came to Denver several years ago. They enrolled both Naomi and Adan in the parenting programs shortly after they were born. As part of those programs, a home educator comes to their home twice a month to talk about child development and share books and educational activities for each child. They also attend monthly parent meetings, where topics in child development are discussed and Spanish-speaking parents can talk with pediatricians and other experts in child rearing. All the parents in the program agree to read to their child daily and help them learn basics like numbers, letters and colors. Health screenings and developmental tests every six months make sure the children are on track to succeed.
Both Doris and Jesus credit the programs with helping their children thrive.
“When a home educator comes to the house, the child gets used to the idea of what a teacher does and what school is like,” says Jesus. “When Naomi started in preschool, they were very impressed with how advanced she was in letters and numbers.”
Doris said the program has helped them learn how to be better parents. “We have the habit of reading to our children now,” she says. “We have their art and activities hanging up on the wall. We also read more ourselves. We’ve seen changes in the way we parent.”
In Mexico, parents often believe that education should be left up to school teachers and they have little right to question what goes on in school. This passive attitude can hinder students’ progress. “I’ve noticed the Latino community often falls back in their studies,” says Doris. “A lot of parents want to educate their children, but they don’t know how. We want our children to graduate from high school and go on to university.”
“Children aren’t born with a handbook,” says Doris. “There’s so much more than just the educational program, they teach you how to be a better parent, how to have patience, how to use love and logic. It’s a whole wrap around.”