ParentChild+ is an early literacy home to home-based program that started in Greenport, New York, in the early 1960s. Dr. Phyllis Levenstein was asked to develop a program for families that would increase the number of high school graduates. After extensive research, she concluded that the most effective intervention would be to reach out to children before they even entered school. The late Dr. Levenstein had a doctorate in psychology from Columbia University. She studied and saw the large gap in literacy, vocabulary, and kindergarten readiness between children from underserved and possibly poverty-stricken households, in comparison to children from just the opposite. Levenstein decided to develop a program that intervened early which has proven through the years to be successful.

Since then, the program has expanded, not only all over the United States, but now in other countries as well. The program focuses on children from a year-and-a-half to around four years of age. The heart behind it is to actively find children within the school district who may find themselves vulnerable for one reason or another. The majority of the children enrolled are living below the national poverty level, in some type of communal housing and may not have access to the same resources as everyone else. The ParentChild+ program visitor enters their homes with a book and a toy that the program provides. A half hour is spent interacting with the child and their parent or parents using the materials, with the goal in mind of modeling literacy, education, and healthy interaction between parent and child. 

The most local site and school district that hosts the ParentChild+ Program is the Center Moriches School District. This site has been open since 2004 and Catherine Gutierrez has been the site coordinator there for nearly six years now. This specific site serves both Center Moriches and the Poospatuck Reservation in Mastic. 

Gutierrez believes in not only the program itself but also the plus, with the plus meaning going the extra mile as herself and her home visitors are able for the children in the program and their families’ needs. This may mean helping with diapers, snacks, and clothing for the child, as well as assisting in filling out job applications with a parent, providing references for a new job, or even a listening ear to a concerned parent. They help translate in school matters for parents that speak English as a second language. This specific site is also beginning English classes for parents this year. There are times that the early learning specialists may observe delays in speech or certain behaviors that may indicate that the child is on the autism spectrum. They are able to screen, intervene early, and assist the parent in finding further resources to help their child.

When asked about the program, Amy Wallace of the Unkechaug Indian Nation on the Poospatuck Reservation in Mastic gave her thoughts.

“I love the program because when parents are involved the children succeed,” said Wallace. “This program will unlock your child’s potential. Every parents’ involvement fuels their child’s success.”

Melissa, whose child is currently in the program said, “This program has been wonderful for my son but also for me. I have learned new things that have helped me to help my other children with their schoolwork. I am extremely grateful for this program.”

Home visitor and early learning specialist Lillian Penney said, “Seeing that one can make a difference right in my own community is so rewarding. I love seeing their little faces beam with excitement as they learn something new. It’s so vital to invest in children as they truly are our future.”

Wallace’s statement has proven true. According to the program’s observation of their long-term success rate, ParentChild+ graduates are “50% more likely to be prepared for kindergarten than their socio-economic peers. ParentChild+ graduates outperformed the statewide average on third grade state math achievement tests. ParentChild+ graduates are 50% less likely to need special education services by third grade. ParentChild+ graduates scored two times higher on social-emotional skills than their peers. ParentChild+ participants have 30% higher graduation rates than their peers.”

Keep reading, keep playing, keep succeeding, and making a difference, ParentChild+ Center Moriches and beyond!

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