LSU AgCenter provides literacy training to parents, educators

Johnny Morgan, Johnson, Juanita, Rogers, Berteal E.  |  9/18/2009 12:05:07 AM

News Release Distributed 09/17/09  

TALLULAH, La. – LSU AgCenter 4-H youth development staff members provided literacy training to more than 110 parents and Head Start and elementary school teachers from a three-parish area Aug. 19 to help prepare them for the upcoming school year.

Juanita Johnson, LSU AgCenter 4-H specialist in Baton Rouge, and Berteal Rogers, Family and Consumer Science agent in Madison Parish, conducted the training session entitled “Building Community Support for Youth and Families.”

The training session focused on how parents and educators can support the social and emotional development of young children.

“The emotional, social and behavioral competence of young children is a strong predictor of academic performance in early elementary school,” Johnson said. “The LSU AgCenter seeks to raise the visibility of the importance of social competence in school success.”

Young children cannot learn to read if they have problems that distract them from educational activities, problems following directions, problems getting along with others and controlling negative emotions, and problems that interfere with relationships with peers, teachers and parents, Johnson said.

Johnson, who also coordinates the LSU AgCenter’s Reading to the HEART youth literacy program in Madison and Rapides parishes, said the session was a way to help parents and teachers provide positive support for elementary school students.

“The LSU AgCenter is working mainly with fourth-grade students in these two parishes in an effort to improve their literacy skills,” she said.

The literacy program, funded through a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant, which is in its third year, is designed to foster a child’s love for reading at a young age, Johnson said. The grant is implemented in the schools and community centers by the local LSU AgCenter 4-H agents with the help of community and faith-based partners and parents.

“The main thrust of the program is geared toward providing books to children who may not be exposed to them any other way,” Johnson said. “We also have the parents get their children library cards, and we encourage them to carry their child to the library and expose them to checking out books and reading them.”

Rogers, who has worked with north Louisiana parents and teachers the past 10 years, said early childhood education professionals need to know how to integrate social/emotional learning with literacy, language and other curricular areas.

“Professionals need to know how to provide parents with information and support around parenting practices that prevent problems and effectively address challenging behavior,” she said. “In the past, I have presented information on other LSU AgCenter programs, such as guidance, discipline, menu planning, food safety and character education.”

Kathie McCarty, a teacher at the Rayville Delta Head Start Center, said the literacy program is one more addition to the work that the LSU AgCenter is already providing to their children.

“Berteal helps us all the time,” McCarty said. “She comes to our centers and does programs like Character Critters, and she also helps us with the child development associate’s degree certification.”

JoAnne Lemon, the nutrition manager for Delta Head Start, said the literacy program will be a great asset to the children because she believes children should be read to from the time they are born.

“Children need to be read to and sung to at an early age, and some of our children are not getting this because their parents are working all the time and don’t take time to read to them,” Lemon said.

One of the most important reasons for getting child-development professionals involved in literacy training is to give their students, as their name states, a “head start” in reading, Rogers said.

“The parent is the first and most important teacher,” Rogers said. “We know if the children don’t read well, they eventually drop out of school about eighth grade, and we stand a great chance of seeing them involved in crime after that. So I’m really happy we can come in and help.”

The LSU AgCenter provides parents, early caregivers and elementary school professionals training and on-site technical assistance in evidence-based practices for promoting social skills that have been identified as essential for academic success of young children. More information is available at www.lsuagcenter.com.

Johnny Morgan

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