SEI guides 16 for Success kit training for community partner
While the bulk of Summit Education Initiative (SEI)’s work occurs behind-the-scenes, sometimes face-to-face conversation and in-person demonstrations best represent our support for community partners and their work.
In fall 2016, Dr. Matthew Deevers, senior research associate at SEI, joined the International Institute of Akron (IIA)’s education department for a series of 16 for Success kit training sessions with local families. While the dialogue and activity in each session helps teach parents how to use different aspects of the kit, the ultimate goal of the training is to help their children begin kindergarten on track for success.
“Each activity in the kit helps children develop one or more of the 16 for Success skills we recommend all students have before entering kindergarten,” Deevers says. “School data and research helped SEI make these recommendations.”
Only families with children ages 3 through 4 ½ who attend preschool are invited to attend the training sessions, which IIA hosts at Bettes Elementary School. Only six families attended the first session, but more than 20 attended the second; as a result, the training sessions had to move into the school library to provide more space.
“The trainings occur at the time when families are typically picking up or dropping off their children at school,” Deevers says.
While many families who attend have language barriers and require extra attention from IIA as a result, SEI provides additional support on the education side.
“The educators at IIA know we can support them,” Deevers says. “Given the population living near or receiving services from IIA, about two-thirds of the families involved are English language learners. IIA designed the program to best meet the needs of clients; they even provide a translator during the sessions to improve comprehension.”
Multiple barriers, such as the inability to speak and understand English, the lack of knowledge of school expectations and the lack of resources, prevent foreign-born parents from being actively involved with their child’s education.
“The 16 for Success kit helps parents understand core kindergarten readiness skills in a simple way,” says Lin Smith, education and workforce development program manager at IIA. “Most importantly, the kits provide parents with tools, methods and resources to learn and have fun with their children together. It helps build awareness and confidence among parents as well.”
According to Deevers, the training sessions are most effective when they are spread out over several months. That way he can help families learn how to use each part of the kit, one at a time.
“During each one-hour session, we either read the book from the kit or review one aspect of the game inside; I show the families how to play it with children in different ways,” Deevers says. “Parents learn how to help their children learn rhymes, name objects from pictures and/or say the colors describing the objects on the cards.”
Some parents who have participated in the trainings have been particularly helpful to Deevers by asking questions during the sessions.
“They understand the importance of teaching rhyming, but with English language learners, there are differences in the pronunciations of English vowel sounds,” Deevers explains. “Infants’ brains are wired to hear sounds in their native language within the first six months of life, so it can be difficult to break through that once children develop further.”
IIA expects the training sessions will build a general awareness of early childhood education.
“Parents and their children will use the kit at home and hopefully borrow free resources from their local library to continue learning beyond the kit,” Smith says.
Deevers hopes his involvement with IIA’s first 16 for Success kit training series helps model the format for future sessions their educators may host themselves.
“I want to provide the easiest transition,” Deevers says. “Being present at these trainings is a little thing I can do, but the more we help, the more we’ll help prepare kids before they enter kindergarten.”
We appreciate PNC for its continued support of our early childhood efforts in Summit County, including financial contributions to cover material expenses for the 16 for Success kits SEI helps assemble and distribute in the spring.