(Ventura, CA) – Nestled in a picturesque community just north of Emma Wood State Beach, and adjacent to the Ventura River, Families in Schools (FIS) visited the Family Center in room 30 at Sheridan Way Elementary School in Ventura, CA.
It was a joy at first sight to see the classroom inside filled with smiling and playful parents and their children under the age of four interacting, learning, playing as part of FIS’s Read with Me/Lea Conmigo early education program in partnership with First 5 Ventura’s Neighborhood for Learning program (F5VNFL).
For eight years now, the Ventura Unified School District and F5VNFL have offered free early learning, health and family strengthening resources to children prenatal to age five living in the Ventura area. These include free parent and child interactive classes, free family literacy classes, and other free health and family support services.
Eight years ago, F5VNFL Director Cathy Puccetti welcomed the incorporation of FIS’ Read With Me program as part of the 0-3 years of age curriculum in teacher Sandra Davila’s Family Center.
“As part of our Parent Learning program, we are empowering parents to know that they are the child’s first teacher,” stated Ms. Puccetti. “Parents then begin to understand their important role in their child’s educational life, and they continue to see their role during preschool, kinder, primary school and beyond,” added Puccetti.
Ms. Puccetti explained that the early education activities and resources such as FIS’ Read with Me program, allow parents to be more confident visiting the school campus, comfortable being inside a classroom, more engaging and at ease talking to teachers, and ultimately active and involved in their child’s education because they have already been exposed to the learning environments and interactive activities with their children.
Participating staff as part of FIS’ Read with Me program receive professional development and materials to successfully engage parents in their child’s early literacy development.
“Incorporating the Read With Me Program in our classroom has worked wonderfully,” said Ms. Davila. “There are times where I have seen the child remind the parent that it’s reading time, and other times where a parent shares that an older sibling at home takes the initiative to read with the younger student. Those experiences alone make it all worthwhile,” added Ms. Davila.
Ms. Davila shared that although the accompanying parent is the mother most of the time, Dads also often accompany the children inside the classroom.
“We are very happy with the Read with Me program. And if we were to have a wish list, it be great if FIS can continue its generous giving of reading materials, backpacks, and a variety of picture books in the program’s rotation to facilitate our 0-3 year children since children at this age tend to understand more through pictures during the early phase of learning,” added Davila.
Ms. Davila has been a teacher for this site for three years and initially thought it would be difficult to teach 0-3 year old children, especially coming from teaching at the preschool level.
“At first I thought, how am I going to teach children at this early age being that there are inherent challenges at the preschool level? How will I get their attention?” said Ms. Davila.
“With the help of programs like F5VNFL and FIS’ Read with Me programs, I was amazed to learn how effective and quick children can learn at such a young age. The secret ingredient I believe is quality parent engagement,” added Ms. Davila