Hiapatia Holley tries to be a part of everything involving her children. Muffins with Moms at Montclair Elementary School was no exception. Awaiting the event to start, Holley took some free time to read a book to her 5-year-old son, Carl.
For Holley, reading is just as important as eating and sleeping. “I read to him every night before going to work,” she said. “He absolutely loves his nighttime story.”
Holley joined a packed cafeteria of women and their children for Montclair Elementary’s Muffins with Moms, a school social event to encourage mothers to learn more about and participate in school activities. The event attracted so many moms that the school had to hold two sessions, one for pre-K to second grade, and another for third to fifth grades.
“It’s important to have events like this because it lets parents know that the school doors are open to them,” Montclair principal Shona Person said. “We want them to partner with us.”
To be sure, parents are perfect partners in education. They influence their children’s attitudes about school and support learning at home. Parents are a vital link between home and school. And when they become involved in the life of the school, they make schools better places to learn, grow and thrive.
Making schools and homes better places is a critical part of Studer Community Institute's mission to improve the quality of life in our community. As program manager at SCI, I help create and implement programs for schools, homes, and the community. At Muffins with Mom, I shared the importance of reading and opened the door for parents to bring Sibling Brains Builders and Basics Insights into their homes. Through partnerships between SCI and schools, the goal is to build better brains, better jobs, and better communities.
Person said through the school's partnership with the Title I department and Brain Builders, they hope the parents use the books, games, and resources to reinforce the reading and vocabulary skills necessary to succeed.
"The purpose of the event is to create a school and family partnership," she said. " The idea was to create a space for mothers and mother-like figures to bond with their children over education."
Building partnerships is the foundation of everything SCI does. Programs like Sibling Brain Builders, Resource Bags, and The Basics are built on that foundation and connected to the people we serve.
Sibling Brain Builders, for example, encourages older siblings and students to read and engage with younger ones. There is ample research on how siblings affect one another, and new research is showing that siblings may well have a powerful effect on one another’s lives as parents.
Basics Insights is an evidence-based text messaging program to help parents talk and interact more with their children. The program is part of the Basics Learning Network founded by Dr. Ronald Ferguson, faculty director of the Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard University.
Both programs are offered by SCI at no cost to families with the aim of improving school readiness and preparing children to read more, learn better and find success in school and life.
Ample research shows that reading with children brings relationships closer and sets the child up for success in school and life. The importance of reading daily to children at home — with parents or siblings — cannot to be overestimated.
New research shows that the difference between reading to kids at home and not is more than a million words by kindergarten. This “million-word gap” could be one key in explaining differences in vocabulary and reading development, according to the study in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics.
The study comes on the heels of reports in 2021 that school districts in both Escambia and Santa Rosa counties saw a decrease in third grade reading proficiency. Escambia County third-graders tested at 53 proficient, a 3 percent decrease from 2019. Santa Rosa students tested at 65 percent, a 6 percent decline.
School officials attributed the decrease in reading scores to, among other things, the pandemic and remote learning. Whatever the reasons, there’s a direct correlation between third-grade reading scores and success in school.
Ms. Holley can attest to that.
“If they don’t know how to read, it will make everything harder for them,” Holley said. “Reading is crucial.”