Toddlers Jump Start Their Education with City Funded Program

Hundreds of toddlers are jumpstarting their education, with a city funded-program focused on getting kids learning well before they get to pre-school. NY1 education reporter Lindsey Christ filed this story.

Counting, reading, painting, focusing and listening are the skills three-year-old Syrai Dover has been working on with her mom and an early childhood educator who comes to their apartment twice weekly, as part of the Parent-Child Home Program.

"The parent is the child's primary and number one teacher and we want to emphasize that," said Carol Dysard, Leake & Watts Parent-Child Home Coordinator.

The program is designed to help parents turn daily life into learning opportunities.

"I didn't want anybody to tell me, 'Oh you have to do this' rather than be more like, 'Okay maybe if you try this way, it will help.' And then I'll try it works perfectly fine," said Phateema Campbell, Syrai’s mother.

The home visitor brings a new book or educational toy each week, and spends time playing and reading with the family. This week, visitor Jeanette Morocho brought Syrai a toy called Number Puzzles.

Currently, 600 city families are enrolled in the program, which has greatly expanded over the past five years. It costs about $5,000 a year per child, and most participate for two years. It's funded by foundations and more than $400,000 in state and city grants.

"It's so self-motivating for my daughter, because it teachers her patience, it teaches her how to teach my granddaughter. And they're both learning, and along with me as grandma, I'm learning also. Things I should have known when I was raising my children," said Shantel Williams, Syrai’s grandmother.

The students in the program are considered at risk of not succeeding in school because of factors like poverty, homelessness, or parents who did not make it through high school. Recent studies by New York University and other research shows that pre-pre-kindergarten can make a big difference.

With Mayor de Blasio so focused on pre-school education, advocates hope this early education program can be expanded to serve even more children. 

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