Mother and Child, Learning Together

A number of early childhood learning experts I’ve talked with describe programs like Head Start and Educare as “two-generation” strategies: They not only benefit young children directly, but they also help parents increase their parenting skills and further their own educations. At heart, strengthening a parent’s literacy and commitment to education pays off for both parent and child, especially before children enter elementary school.

Now, the National Center for Family Literacy and the MetLife Foundation are teaming up to award 10 grants of $25,000 each for partnerships between community colleges and family literacy programs. The application deadline is Aug. 22 and awardees will pursue their projects through the 2012 calendar year. You can find out more about the application process here.

Plenty of studies show that the mother’s level of education is the pre-eminent factor in determining her child’s educational success. But if one listens enough to that drumbeat, it can feel like there’s no hope for children of parents with little formal schooling. Yet research also shows that children can benefit when parents attain higher levels of education. According to a 2007 study by the Center for Economic Policy Research, children’s performance on a standardized math test can be increased 1.5 points for every additional year of maternal schooling.

Reporters in Florida, Rhode Island and Kentucky might be particularly interested in a recent report on such partnerships that feature case studies based in Columbia County, Providence and Jefferson County. Many of the students profiled are Latinas raising young children and trying to further their own education: learning English, passing the GED and moving on to begin college-level coursework. The adult education field has long struggled to help its students transition successfully to college courses and, ultimately, degrees. Though current statistics on transition are dismal (Only three percent of GED recipients earn associate’s degrees), the three programs profiled are beating those odds. Building strong personal relationships with students and offering childcare and flexible course scheduling appear to be among the components for success.

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