A new program designed to get parents involved in teaching basic educational skills to children is winning accolades from children and parents alike.
It's called Kids' Primetime, sponsored by the Catholic University School of Education, the D.C. Public Libraries, D.C. Reading Is Fundamental RIF , and the McDonald's Restaurant chain.
Deborah Walker, the mother of 4-year-old Latanya, said she believes the program is a good one.
"My daughter and I attended the trial run and we'll be coming back," she said. "When we got home, my daughter told her brother about the program and the activities that went on. Then she immediately turned to me and asked me when were we going back."
According to Irene Blum, coordinator of the project from Catholic University, the Primetime program, has two major goals.
"We want to involve children in activities where they can practice reading and writing skills in a natural, comfortable, real-world setting," Blum said. "We also want to give parents information about their importance in the educational achievement of their children and examples of activities that support literacy skills taught in school."
The story hour for preschoolers, from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m., includes such activities as arts and crafts, creative dramatics, poetry, singing, drawing and finger puppetry. Maria Salvadore, director of children's services of the D.C. Public Libraries, and Portia Tyndle, of the Martin Luther King Memorial Library, will lead the morning sessions.
The afternoon sessions include activities structured to give children practice in using reading and writing skills, such as listening to stories, reading to each other, planning and organizing schedules, keeping diaries and interviewing members of different professions.
Winnell Montague, community librarian of Sursum Corda Community Library, is the leader of the afternoon sessions.
Both sessions are held each Wednesday at the McDonald's Restaurant at New York Avenue and First Street NE.
Blum says McDonald's was chosen as the meeting site because it was the closest point for all the participants.
Eva Goosby, a teacher's aide at Walker Jones Elementary who recently participated in the program, said Kids' Primetime "gives teachers and parents a sense of closeness and broadens the communication between the two.
"When children see their parents taking part it gives them that extra incentive to get involved," Goosby said.
Although the role of the parent during the sessions is mainly that of an assistant, the concept of the program calls for the parent to take an active role in promoting and following up the program in the home.
Project coordinators suggest that the parents schedule regular story-reading sessions at home with their children. These sessions should occur at a special time each day in an area of the home that creates a relaxed atmosphere where the child can concentrate on what is being read, they say. They also suggest that the parent sit so that the child can see the words and pictures. The child should play an active part in the selection of the reading material as well.
They also suggest that the child be asked to recall the story. This method will give the child practice in recalling details, making inferences, indentifying the main idea and telling fact from fiction, they say. It will help the child's comprehension, classifying of ideas and synthesizing of information.
Another method of parent-child interaction they suggest is including the child in food preparation.
They suggest that parents ask the child to read recipes and measure the ingredients, saying that this will allow the child to develop reading as well as math skills.
Other recommended activities to stimulate children include having them write lists of things they need to remember, say project coordinators. Such lists may include chores, shopping lists, books to read, babysitting or special jobs, personal phone lists, or personal TV schedules.
Making lists provides the opportunity to improve vocabulary, spelling, writing for a purpose, phonics and organization, according to the program coordinators.
Having the child write schedules, along with making lists, helps to develop his concept of time, they say.
And program coordinators say that reading calendars helps children with ordering events chronologically, understanding time relationships, locating specific information, developing vocabulary and learning capitalization rules.
Other home activities might include reading maps, using the Yellow Pages telephone directory and reviewing the weekly television guide.
Joyce Frager, a parent who attended one of the sessions, said she has noticed that her son has been more attentive than usual.
"He was very excited about the activities that went on during the program ," she said. "When we got home he said to me, 'Mama, if we go to McDonald's we'll be able to pick up the books and I'll be able to read and understand better.'
"He loves to read and often asks my youngest daughter to read to him," Frager said. "I think the program's going to be a success. It's been very helpful to my son in terms of reading and understanding."
Frager says one important factor she noticed was that the program increased her son's attention span.