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Parent Programs in Pre-K through Third Grade


Future of Children Volume 26, Number 2, ISSN 1054-8289


Parents strongly influence their children's development, and prekindergarten and early elementary programs--especially those serving children at risk for low achievement because of their family backgrounds--often feature programming to support parents' role in their children's learning. Despite the prevalence of such programs, however, we have little good evidence of their effectiveness. In this article, Katherine Magnuson and Holly Schindler review more promising, fully developed parent "add-on" programs. In their daily work, preschool and elementary school programs and teachers commonly use a variety of formal and informal activities to support, educate, and involve parents, such as having parents volunteer in the classroom or encouraging children to share classwork or other materials with their parents. Though such practices are widespread, the authors write, we have little rigorous evidence to show that they're associated with children's academic success. "Add-on" parenting programs, in contrast, generally target a particular subset of parents, and they often have a highly specific and clearly developed programmatic approach. Such programs focus on helping parents improve either their children's early academic skills or their behavior and self-regulation. Among the types of parent support that Magnuson and Schindler review, add-on programs have shown the most promise to improve children's learning. But parents with many demands on their time may find it hard to sustain a commitment to these programs; technological solutions such as communication by text messaging may be one way to solve this problem. A final way to involve parents is to give them information about the quality of their prekindergarten or elementary school choices, although such information may not be particularly useful to parents who live near a set of similarly high-performing or low-performing schools, or can't access programs because of limited enrollments or cost.


Magnuson, K. & Schindler, H.S. (2016). Parent Programs in Pre-K through Third Grade. Future of Children, 26(2), 207-221. Retrieved May 19, 2022 from .

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