Letter to the Editor

Your view: PAT explained

Thursday, September 23, 2004

As a parent educator and program coordinator of the Parents As Teachers Program at New Madrid R-1, I am writing in response to your editorial concerning Parents As Teachers. The mission statement of PAT is to provide the information, support and encouragement parents need to help their children develop optimally during the crucial early years of life. The main focus of the program is on educating parents about child development.

Another aspect of the program is to empower the parents. If necessary, we make referrals to a variety of agencies available in our area. These referrals may be to the County Health Department, Missouri Mentoring, the Family Resource Center, DAEOC, the Family Support Division and the Center for Family Resources. If there are delays in child development, referrals are made to the appropriate agency - the Early Childhood Special Education program in our district, First Steps, the child's pediatrician and the Kenny Rogers Children's Center.

Parents As Teachers is a research-based program. Several evaluations have been conducted by a variety of agencies, including the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. A summary of these findings show these general outcomes:

* PAT parents are more knowledgeable about child-rearing practices and child development.

* PAT parents are more confident in their parenting skills.

* PAT parents engage in more language and literacy-promoting behaviors with their children.

* PAT parents are more involved in their children's schooling.

* PAT children at age 3 are more advanced than comparison children in language, problem solving, other cognitive abilities and social development.

* PAT children score higher on kindergarten readiness tests and on standardized measures of reading, math and language in first through fourth grade.

Parents As Teachers is a free, voluntary program offered in every school district in Missouri. The New Madrid County R-1 PAT program does participate in the Reading Is Fundamental Program, so we are able to distribute books to the children and their parents several times throughout the year. PAT stresses parent support of children's early literacy through shared book reading and home literacy activities.

Our program attempts to serve every parent in our school district, not just single mothers. We currently have approximately 500 families that receive services in our PAT program.

Paula Hayes,

PAT Program coordinator,

New Madrid County R-1 School District