Riverwest Program Helps Preschool Youngsters Do Well in School

by Tom Schneider, COA Executive Director What is the single most important thing affecting how children do in school? Study after study says parent involvement. Giving parents the tools, experience, and help they need to become involved in their preschool youngsters’ education is what a free Riverwest program is all about. The program, called HIPPY — Home Instruction Program for Preschool Youngsters — has been helping kids do well in school for four years. HIPPY is a FREE home-based school readiness program for parents of three, four, and five-year-olds offered by COA Youth & Family Centers in partnership with Milwaukee Public Schools. HIPPY focuses on helping parents become their children’s first teachers through reading and other daily educational activities. Each parent or guardian signing up for HIPPY receives 30 weeks of personalized visits in their homes by other parents who are trained HIPPY instructors. Instructors provide free books, activities and games for parents to share with their children. COA’s HIPPY Director Tondalayo Davis emphasized, “The 15 minutes you spend reading to your young child each day will make a real difference to your child’s future in school – and to you.” COA has partnered with Riverwest area elementary schools (Fratney, Pierce, Gaenslen, LaFollette, and Palmer schools) to implement this national school achievement initiative in Milwaukee. And the results here parallel national results: HIPPY kids do well in school, HIPPY brings kids and parents closer together, and HIPPY supports parents’ involvement. As part of HIPPY, parents and children gather monthly for Family Nights at COA, where kids enjoy food and entertainment. On July 27, the 2002 class of HIPPY 3, 4, and 5 year olds and their parents gathered for graduation ceremonies. “They enjoyed a magic show, food and the friendship, but most of all they felt the pride of accomplishment,” said Davis. “These 2002 graduates are on track for a successful school experience in the years to come.” Last spring, State Superintendent of Schools Elizabeth Burmaster and the Deputy Superintendent of Milwaukee Public Schools Jackie Patterson attended presentations about HIPPY at La Escuela Fratney, and both announced their support for this program. Participating parents, teachers, and educators spoke about their positive experiences with HIPPY. This August, MPS announced plans to expand HIPPY to additional COA/MPS partnerships so more parents will have a chance to participate. Now is the time to sign up. Materials are available at COA and at Fratney, Pierce, Gaenslen, LaFollette, and Palmer schools. For information or to sign up a parent or guardian of a 3, 4 or 5 year old can call HIPPY Director Tondalayo Davis at 263-8383 ext 128.
by Tom Schneider, COA Executive Director