Today’s parents have lots of challenges with their young children today. Learning disabilities seem to be on the rise, more parents are working full time and making arrangements for someone else to care for their young child, educational publishers taunt families with “the latest, greatest” quick fix that will make a child perfect.
Many parents are asking:
How do I know what to trust?
Which is a sales pitch and which is valid
How do I tell the difference between truth and misinformation, facts and hype?
What is my role as a parent in helping my child get ready for school?
Where are the answers?
Madison County’s Early Care and Education Community
Parents can start by asking a professional preschool teacher Look for someone you know who has up-to-date training credentials or a bachelor’s or master’s degree in Early Childhood Education are the best sources. Don’t be afraid to ask about these qualifications. Reach out to the teacher and director at your child’s preschool or child care center.
Visit a Alabama Office of School Readiness classroom (see http://www.northalabamachildrenfirst.com/1stclass.html for a complete list) to see what learning through play looks like. They are examples of some of the best preschool experiences in the county. See what the State of Alabama recommends for each stage from birth through age five at www.dhr.state.al.us/large_docs/AELG.pdf.
Find local support groups/programs like United Cerebral Palsy’s Play Group (http://www.ucphuntsville.org/services/preschool-readiness-group) and Healthy Families North Alabama, a voluntary home visitation program that supports overburdened, first-time parents. Families can participate in the program from the birth of their baby until the child enters kindergarten. There are many more.
MORE COMMUNITY RESOURCES
United Way of Madison County works on the issues of education and the early years, ages zero to five, are a focus. With partners like the Village of Promise, right here in our community, this unique organization can serve as both a pipeline to answers to parent questions AND a means to support the work of early childhood and family advocates right here in our community.
For example, did you know that any citizen in Madison County with a child aged 1 month to 5.5 years is able to complete a simple Ages and Stages Questionnaire? This simple tool can will help families know if a child is developing in just the right way, gain access to extra activities to help a particular area, or referrals to organizations who can help determine what challenges a child may have and provide support to help that child reach their potential.
The Madison County Children’s Policy Council Early Care and Education Committee has created a simple brochure called “To My Parents” which gives families simple activities they can do to help their child grow, every year along the way from birth. Copies are available from United Way of Madison County or online at http://www.uwhsv.org/default.aspx?id=451 (choose “early learning link on the right of the page).
GETTING READY FOR SCHOOL
One of the most pressing questions is: What can I do to make sure my child is happy when he goes to school? Behaves? Is he/she going to be successful? How will I know if MY CHILD IS READY FOR SCHOOL?
Thanks to generous funding from Boeing Corporation, a group of local early childhood experts, public and private school representatives, and those interested in supporting families with young children (more than 20 organizations represented including the Village of Promise), guided by a representative from the state of Alabama Partnership for Children, Madison County has one kindergarten readiness checklist for everyone. Finally everyone will be speaking the same language when we talk about being ready for school. You can request a copy at any public school, United Cerebral Palsy, or through United Way’s Education Impact Coordinator.
A CHILD CANNOT WAIT – WE ALL NEED TO PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT WE CAN DO FOR YOUNG CHILDREN TO GIVE THEM THE BEST START IN LIFE.
Content provided by Cathy Puett Miller, Community Impact Coordinator for Educational Programs at United Way of Madison County. 256-536-0745 or www.madisoncountycares.org.