Press & Reports
Ready by Five breaks down barriers for parents, young kids
April 15, 2012
BY DAN CATCHPOLE
YAKIMA, Wash. -- Celeste Galvan wants to help her two boys -- Ramon, 6, and Joseph, 4 -- succeed in the classroom.
Even though Ramon is only in the first grade, Galvan struggles at times to help him with his school work.
"Sometimes, he say, 'Mommy, how do you say this word (in English),' and I say, 'I don't know," the 29-year-old Galvan says in unsteady English.
Two months ago, she began taking English classes at Ready by Five in Yakima. Joseph is in the program's early literacy program.
The English classes are part of a fundamental expansion of the early-education program Ready by Five's campaign to get migrant children from Yakima's poorest areas ready to enter kindergarten by the time they're 5 years old. Without the intervention, the kids will enter school behind, and most will never catch up.
Since 2010, the nonprofit has offered classes only for the parents of the children it serves. On most days, a couple dozen parents come to Ready by Five to learn English. But Ready by Five also teaches parents about participating in PTAs, creating a resume and fun activities they can do with their children, among other things.
The goal is to foster a context for learning at home and to help parents support their children's education. Parents are their children's most influential teachers, said Helen Marieskind, Ready by Five's director.
"Unless you bring the family along and inspire them, and get them excited about school, the children's gains don't last."
Yakima's Ready by Five was established in 2006 with about $10 million from the Gates Foundation of Seattle and Educational Service District 105 of Yakima, which supports area schools with programs and resources.
The organization adjusted its focus somewhat in 2010 when it won a federal grant to promote family literacy. At the same time, the Gates Foundation shifted its resources in Yakima to other aspects of early education, ending its direct relationship with Ready by Five.
Now, Ready by Five is an independent entity with a $1 million budget that comes mostly from federal grants. It also gets money from state contracts and private donations, including $100,000 from Washington Fruit & Produce Co.
Marieskind plans to launch an annual fundraising campaign in the Yakima Valley to keep the organization going.
"The families are staying. They're not going away, and they're the workforce of the future. Doesn't it make sense to get the best outcomes we can?" Marieskind said.
Galvan wants the best results she can achieve for herself and her kids.
Born in the United States and raised in Mexico, Galvan moved in her early 20s to Georgia, where she lived for a few years before relocating to Central Washington.
Galvan picked fruit and worked odd jobs. After a divorce, she received her GED diploma.
"My goal is to be child psychologist, but now, I take small steps," Galvan said.
She is studying to take her Child Development Associate test in late April. In May, she will start a temporary job as a childcare provider for the Washington State Migrant Council.
Once she is regularly working, Galvan plans to get a bachelor's degree.
Advocates for parent education hope that Galvan's gains will directly and indirectly encourage her children's education. With a better grasp of English, she can help with their homework, talk more easily with their teachers and be an example of getting ahead through education.
Those are the goals of parent education, says Guadalupe Valdes, an education professor at Stanford University. "If a child sees a parent signing up to take an English class, it sends a very strong message about what's important."
Also, if parents understand the importance of computers, they are more likely to make sure their children have access to technology, she said.
Literacy goes far beyond books, nowadays. It includes smartphones and computers, Valdes said. "The world of literacy is much, much broader than just books in the home."
Parent education has increased in popularity among education experts in recent years, and the concept has been endorsed by the federal Department of Education.
But it isn't without controversy. Studies of parent education programs haven't shown a clear improvement in children's academic performances. Even small changes can have big consequences, Valdes said. For example, a parent might greet their child after school by saying, 'How did you behave at school today?'
"We might tell her to say, 'What did you learn today?' because that's what middle-class parents are supposed to say. But you don't know what the unintended consequences are of the mother shifting her focus from behavior," Valdes said.
Ready by Five doesn't prescribe specific behavior, Marieskind said.
Despite the mixed results of parent education, Ready by Five remains committed to it.
Marieskind points to the English literacy scores of Ready by Five children entering kindergarten.
In 2007, 16 percent had adequate English. By 2011, that number had climbed to 26 percent. That is not far behind the 31 percent for all kids entering kindergarten in the Yakima School District.
Ready by Five isn't the only reason for the boost, but Marieskind believes it has definitely helped.
Greg Day, Yakima School District's director of assessment, said a direct cause-and-effect conclusion is difficult.
Nonetheless, Day said, "if you see more kids coming in at a benchmark, that is an indicator" of improvement.
"We know our East Yakima children are capable of it, they just have to be given the opportunities," Marieskind said. "And that comes back to how do we increase parents' ability to teach?"
* Dan Catchpole can be reached at 509-577-7684 or email@example.com.
- Ready by Five breaks down barriers for parents, young kids - April 15, 2012
- Ready by Five kids gain seeds of knowledge - October 14, 2011
- Yakima's Ready by Five wins grant for parenting education - June 24, 2011
- Ready by Five – A Path Toward Success - January 03, 2011