• Shanika Gunaratna

ParentCorps leaders participate in Campaign for Grade-Level Reading convening


Did you miss Kai-ama Hamer and Spring Dawson-McClure represent ParentCorps at the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading's convening on November 17, 2020: Parent Coaching: A Key Ingredient to Parent and Child Success? If so, links to the webinar recording and slides can be accessed here.


The following is the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading's synopsis of the panel:


Inspired by Carly Roberts of the Overdeck Family Foundation, this webinar focused on parent coaching as an essential element to parent success and child well-being. Moderated by Roberts, the panel of experts and practitioners from four exemplary organizations provided a deep dive on how they approach coaching to support parents in creating strong early foundations for their children. From prenatal interventions to ways to improve early reading skills, participants shared their evidence-based strategies and tools that are making a difference in parents’ and children’s lives. Here are the highlights:


Dr. Spring Dawson-McClure of NYU offered a clear and compelling overview of the science on supporting parents to ensure children’s success and well-being. She highlighted the consensus that responsive relationships early in life are the most important factor in building sturdy brain architecture and serve as a buffer for the protection needed to prevent very challenging experiences from producing a toxic stress response in children. Building on this, Dr. Dawson-McClure noted how poverty is a primary source of stress. She highlighted Harvard’s Center for the Developing Child “Science Driven Redesign of Policy and Practice,” as an important frame in dismantling structural and systemic barriers that contribute to “educational debt.”


Marena Burnett of Centering Healthcare Institute shared the group-based parent coaching model, before birth and after birth. Through partnerships and within a framework of billable health care visits, cohorts of new moms and dads are formed and supported to build parent capacity and help families thrive. The Centering Pregnancy cohorts become part of Centering Parenting cohort (which include their babies). Group discussions focus on a range of topics, including health, safety, social/emotional concepts, stress, relationships, community resources and more. The short video shown brought the group concept to life and illuminated the power of parents learning with and from each other.


Steve Hannon of LENA discussed how the focus on interactive talk in the earliest years is key for better futures for children. The LENA talk pedometer that children wear captures and quantifies the child’s language environment, helping parents become aware of the importance of conversational turns (back and forth language engagement between child and adult) and how many of those turns are happening throughout the day. Through the LENA Start program, groups of parents learn about interactive talk, brain science and early development – and they receive a LENA feedback report. The combined power of feedback and social capital has yielded strong graduation results.


Adrián Pedroza shared the Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors (AP/OD) training which emerged by working with parents as co-creators. By listening to the needs of parents, AP/OD developed a better, more responsive approach to their needs. The program utilizes popular education pedagogy, which sees parents as experts and leaders in their home, school and community. Through weekly sessions, parents build social capital, learn to navigate systems impacting their children and learn positive parenting behaviors while unpacking unhealthy behaviors. Key ingredients to the model include using a listening first approach, being culturally responsive and honoring family experiences.


Kai-ama Hamer of ParentCorps highlighted the essential elements of the school-based approach, which begins at the start of a child’s entry into school. A key element of the program is to prepare school staff to work with parents by first having staff take an assessment of their beliefs, judgments and assumptions we all make. Staff then build a new narrative about the families in their schools and centers, the challenges parents are facing and the strength parents exhibit every day. This prepares staff to build authentic relationships, honor culture, understand race and racism, share the science of early learning and utilize a practice of self-reflection.


The panel also engaged in a discussion about how they have helped families during this time of COVID and how their programs have had to pivot to support families virtually. Finally, participants shared their insights and aspirations for how a new administration in D.C. might elevate and prioritize families, making parents a “big bet.”


We are grateful to the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading for including a rich range of perspectives in this important conversation.