California Migrant Pre-K Program Makes Inroads

The Central California Migrant Head Start programs can serve as a model of how to effectively welcome Latino families, reports EdSource Today. Children are taught in Spanish and English.

Latino families are less likely to enroll their children in preschool programs than other ethnic groups, but some programs are making inroads. In 2011, the program became one of ten early childhood programs from across the country to be named a Head Start Center of Excellence by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“We know from 20 years of research that a lot of Latino parents prefer to use home-based care, and that preschools appear to be excessively formal and sometimes not inviting institutions,” University of California, Berkeley education professor Bruce Fuller told the media outlet.

The story describes how 3- and 4-year old children listened to the story of the three little pigs in Spanish–but discussed the story in both English and Spanish. Classroom tools are labeled in both English and Spanish as well.

The program also recruits parents at venues as diverse as churches, flea markets and on farm job sites.

Berta Sanchez said her three-year-old daughter is doing well in the program.

“My daughter knows her ABCs, she knows the song about the ‘little star’ and she can write her name,” Sanchez told EdSource Today.

Other programs making inroads with Latino families and improving early learning opportunities include Abriendo Puertas, HIPPY (Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters), and Avance.

Are school districts in your community involved in any similar efforts?

Related Links:

– “Migrant program offers lessons for reaching Latino preschoolers,” EdSource.

– “A winning Head Start: Program for children from migrant families gets national recognition,” Santa Cruz Sentinel.

– “NCLR Spotlights Four Pre-K Programs Successful With Latino Children,” Latino Ed Beat.

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Latino Preschoolers Show Social Strengths

Latino children may tend to begin preschool with a smaller vocabulary than white children, but some researchers say that doesn’t necessarily mean they lack social and emotional skills.

Part of that could possibly be traced back to the often warm and nurturing home environments that they come from. NPR reporter Claudio Sanchez recently reported on a University of California, Berkeley, and UCLA study  that examined 4,700 Latino children when they were between the ages of two and five years old.

“We found that Latino kids bring to school strong emotional skills and strong social skills, which means they know how to share with their peers,” said Claudia Galindo, a sociologist at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, about the report‘s findings. “They know how to follow instructions. They know how to listen. And one other thing that we found is that these kids are being raised in very supportive and warm family environments.”

Bruce Fuller, one of the authors and an education professor at the University of California, Berkeley, said that it’s a mistake to view Latino children as slow or deficient. Education policy-makers mistakenly believe that the issue is “we need to fix the parenting skills,” he told NPR

In a commentary piece in The Next America written by study authors Fuller, Galindo and Alma Guerrero, the three described the childrens’ strengths. They observed that Mexican-American kindergartners “display robust cooperative skills, respect adults, and eagerly participate in classroom tasks, whether their behavior is judged by parents or teachers.”

Despite the parents’ nurturing skills, the children lagged. The researchers noted that Mexican mothers did not read as often to their children, which held back the children’s language and cognitive skills.

Related Links:

– “Study: Latino Children Make Up for Academic Shortcomings with Strong Social Skills,” NPR.

– “Study: Mexican American Children Don’t Lag in Social Skills,” Latino Ed Beat.

– “Opinion: Mexican-American Kids Have Better Social Skills, Misunderstood by Institution,” National Journal, The Next America.

– “Mexican American toddlers lag in pre-literacy skills, but not in their social skills, new study shows,” UC Berkeley News Center.

Study Finds Mexican Mothers Nurturing, but Less Likely to Emphasize Education

A study released this week shed some positive light on the nurturing nature of Mexican immigrant mothers, while at the same time confirming that a warm home environment doesn’t necessarily translate to educational success.

First, the positive findings on Hispanic culture. The researchers found that on average Mexican mothers established warmer home environments, had fewer fights with their spouses and were in stronger mental health than their white and Chinese counterparts.

Study leader Bruce Fuller, a Berkeley professor and sociologist, said the “robust social relations” inside of Mexican immigrant homes was the biggest surprise. These positives occurred even though Hispanics are significantly more likely to be poor.

“Until now, little national evidence has been available to distinguish the home settings of major immigrant groups,” study coauthor Claudia Galindo, a  University of Maryland sociology professor, said in a press release. “And many policy makers have assumed that poverty necessarily leads to poor parenting.”

But the study’s findings weren’t  all good news. Researchers observed that Mexican women read to their toddlers infrequently and also did not organize many educational activities. Early learning opportunities make children to more likely to succeed in school. In comparison, Chinese mothers provided their children many learning opportunities, but had more conflict in the home.

So how did the researchers make these conclusions? The research team tracked more than 5,300  Mexican, white and Chinese mothers from across the United States.  They conducted two home visits over the course of the three-year study, asking the women about their home lives. Researchers also observed the mothers interacting with their children and spouses.

A statistic raising particular concern: Mexican mothers read to their toddlers about 71 percent less often than the U.S.-born white mothers. Chinese mothers read to their toddlers 12 percent more often than white mothers.

The study notes that Mexican mothers reported that they had 21 percent fewer arguments than their U.S.-born white peers and 39 percent fewer arguments than Chinese peers.

The notion that Mexican mothers are more nurturing than white mothers is causing a stir over on The Huffington Post comments section, where the study was also highlighted.

The research was published this week in the scientific journal, Child Development.

Related Links:

– “Mexican moms are more nurturing than white ones, study says.” The Huffington Post.

– “Family functioning and early learning practices in immigrant homes.” Child Development

– “English language learners with more educated mothers fare better on assessments.” Latino Ed Beat.