It’s been well researched and documented that today’s children are not entering kindergarten as prepared and ready to learn as previous generations were. They may not know their numbers or ABCs or have basic social skills, all of which are needed to get a child’s education off to a good start. This early learning gap is difficult, if not impossible, to close as the years go on.
To help children in the Allentown Promise Neighborhood of downtown Allentown become better prepared, Promise Neighborhoods of the Lehigh Valley has started a new home visitation initiative where parents are the teachers called “Little School.” The bi-lingual program is known as “Escuelita” to Spanish-speaking residents.
Administered by its partner, Community Services for Children, Cassondra Lander, who has been trained in the “Parents as Teachers” nationally recognized model, visits homes in the nine-block neighborhood. The program targets children ages 3 or 4, but Lander will also work with children younger than age 3 and as old as age 5. She works with their parents to assess each child’s current developmental level and then creates a program specific to each child to help them advance their skills.
Lander visits with the families up to 12 times per year to monitor the progress being made and to recommend additional areas for improvement. Areas of focus include family literacy, nutrition and healthy lifestyle education, health and developmental screenings, school readiness strategies, and help with kindergarten registration.
“PNLV wants to ensure that every family in the Allentown Promise Neighborhood has the opportunity for their children to enter grade school ready to learn,” said Ed Meehan, Chairman of the Board for PNLV. “All children in a neighborhood succeeding in school will bring tremendous long term benefits to the entire community. We are grateful to our supporters, proud of our families, and delighted to work hand-in-hand with Community Services for Children on this important program.”
“Little School/Escuelita offers families an opportunity to learn and grow together,” said Pam Cho, Director of Child Development Services at Community Services for Children. “Through home visitation, we are able to focus on all aspects of school readiness, including health, nutrition, establishing routines, and pre-literacy and numeracy skills. Families also receive support and education around parenting skills and community resources that help to promote child development. We are pleased to partner with Allentown Promise Neighborhood in providing this exciting program.”
Little School is funded through grants from Air Products, The Ed Donley Foundation, and The Rider Pool Foundation. The program launched in April of this year and has 20 participating families but can support up to 50 children in the neighborhood. PNLV is currently seeking additional families to sign up. Interested parents can contact Cassondra Lander at Community Services for Children at 610-437-6000 ext. 2170 for more information.
Little School just completed a summer literacy camp from June 25 – July 30 which provided one day per week of computer-based literacy activities, story time, reading activities, and skill building for school readiness.
About Promise Neighborhoods of the Lehigh Valley
Founded in 2007, Promise Neighborhoods of the Lehigh Valley unites residents and leaders from various sectors to ensure the success of children from birth thru career. Promise Neighborhoods accomplishes its work through place-based, collective impact efforts, like Allentown Promise Neighborhood. Promise Neighborhoods is a subsidiary of the United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley. Its office is located at 347 N. 8th Street in Downtown Allentown. For more information, visit their web site at www.PromiseNeighborhoodsLV.org.