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Sunday, August 3, 2003

Readers opinions mixed on Success By 6 movement


This week's let's talk

Last Sunday in Forum we started a public conversation about how to boost the learning skills of Tristate children. Researchers say we can improve the way children's brain connections form if we start in the first six years of life.

Will it take a big shift in everybody's thinking? Maybe. Local leaders are calling us to join a budding nationwide movement called "Success by 6." It could include parenting tips for all families, training for childcare providers and screening all preschoolers for health, social and academic needs. It eventually may change the way teachers teach and how we spend education money.

Last week we asked readers' to respond to the "Success by 6" push. Here are some of your responses:

All parents can use some advice

I think it is important to include more than just disadvantaged/at-risk children in "Success by 6" efforts. Those of us who stay at home with our children, but do not fall into such a category, could still gain alot from community-based programs focusing on teaching child development.

When I lived in the Cincinnati Public Schools district, I took advantage of the Parents-as-Teachers program and found it very valuable. Even though I do not come from a disadvantaged background, the sharing of ideas and creative input was inspiring. Also, the interaction between different cultural and social backgrounds would be beneficial to all.

It is also easy to feel isolated as a stay-at-home parent and it is nice to touch base with experts to make sure that you are either on track or help to refocus your efforts. Everyone can use help, regardless of social status. Don't leave us hanging here in suburbia.

Katie Hall, Loveland

Early childhood programs work

I have always believed that early childhood development for children, fosters an unquenchable thirst for and an indelible imprint on learning and cognitive discovery.

I was fortunate to learn about the 4C organization when my daughter, Lauren, was an infant. The program is still under the direction of Sallie Westheimer at the United Way and Community Chest. Lauren recently graduated summa cum laude with a 3.8 GPA from Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, N.C. and is now working on an MBA at Ohio University. Her academic and personal success can be attributed to her participation in the early childhood development program at 4C. This is why I know that programs such as Success By 6 are effective and need to be encouraged and funded.

Sherry Scott, Kennedy Heights

Shortage of time attention and money

As a Montessori-certified preschool teacher since 1988, my perception is that one thing that has become much more challenging over the past 15 years with children aged 3 to 6 years old is the ability and willingness to follow directions, including coming when called.

Another major issue is parents having enough flexibility in their work and life schedules to come to parent-teacher conferences and family involvement events scheduled at the school or daycare setting.

Also, the amount of funding available for programs such as "Every Child Succeeds," and for families to afford quality childcare is lacking. Even though we know "Every Child Succeeds" works, such as in the case of the young mother profiled in the July 27 Forum section, funds have been cut to this and other such programs in the past 12 months.

The result is inconsistent care for many children who desperately need stability of routine and care to develop trust, which is fundamental to being able to function successfully in school and the wider community.

Karen Thorp, Madisonville

Comfortable children can learn better

While all children this age need the opportunity to learn and grow from the time of birth, perhaps children who are victims of abuse and neglect need our help and resources even more.

If we are truly invested in making significant progress in our efforts to ensure all children are more prepared to begin school, we cannot lose sight of the fact that some children will need more help than others. Abused and neglected infants and toddlers will need intensive monitoring and services to offset the harm that has been done to them.

Beth Turk, Anderson Township

Develop better childcare providers

How can we build brighter kids without building brighter childcare providers? When a child spends 40-plus hours a week in child care, providers may spend more waking hours with them than parents do.

I have been in the field of early childhood education for 20-plus years, and while attending the state-required classes for childcare providers, I was dismayed to see that participants were well-versed in safety and health regulations, first aid and CPR, but woefully lacking in knowledge of child development, classroom management, and planning appropriate curriculum.

Child care is hard work and does not pay wages equal to its responsibility. The way to achieve success by six is to elevate the childcare profession to a level equal to its tremendous responsibility.

Martha Long, Amberley Village

Schools fail kids because parents do

My biggest challenge with a 0-6 year-old is meeting all of her needs, not only material needs, but more importantly, her need for one-on-one time so that she can develop to be a happy child.

What I need most from the community are opportunities for families that are educational and have social value and cost little or nothing.

My advice for leaders of Success By 6: Please do not forget that these are children we are talking about and that our aim should not be to make little walking encyclopedias out of them. Let children have fun.

Our children, our schools, and our communites would be much better off if parents would just do their job.

Sarah Good, Augusta, Ky.

Parenting program pressed for money

A program to "build brighter kids" already exists in the form of the the "Parents as Teachers" (PAT) program offered by Cincinnati Public Schools' Early Childhood Education Department. PAT is an international parent education and family support program serving all families throughout pregnancy until their child enters kindergarten.

Our mission is to provide the information, support and encouragment parents need to help their children develop optimally during the crucial early years of life. The PAT curriculum is based on all of the latest brain research.

The school district funds programs for kindergarten through 12th grade. Early childhood education programs are funded by grants and contracts. The district offers us space to work and supervision and guidance through Deborah Bradshaw, director of early childhood education. We, too, recognize the urgency and importance of building brighter kids.

Thank you, Enquirer for enlightening Cincinnati on such an important issue - our children.

Michele Judge, PAT program manager, Cincinnati Public Schools

Overworked parents pressed to meet needs

The biggest challenge to raising children under age 6 is the fact that, unlike a mere generation ago, a family today is hard-pressed to survive, let alone live comfortably, on one income.

In far too many families, both parents are pressed into the work force to provide the basics for their children. We have a whole cadre of devoted adults who can provide loving, stimulating care to children from birth. But they, like their spouses, spend 40-plus hours a week in poor-paying jobs and warehouse their children for those 40-plus hours in group settings that may be good for what they are but are weak substitutes for a home with a parent.

Anne Flick, Springfield Township



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