Child development experts help parents prep children for school

9/14/2009 - By: Skyler Dillon

Preparing children for school isn’t just knowing the ABCs; it’s also about emotional and social readiness. A series of workshops at the University of Nevada, Reno “Building the Foundations for School Readiness” that begins Sept. 15 will help parents understand these and other important issues.

“Many parents have the idea that school readiness for children only means knowing your ABC’s, being able to count to 10, knowing your colors and so on,” said Becky Carter-Steele, coordinator of infant and toddler care for the University’s Child and Family Resource Center. “However, the more important issues are social and emotional: knowing how to share, how to cooperate and how to show confidence.”

The Center has been working for more than 40 years to improve child care in Reno through an ever-expanding list of programs, services and trainings. This fall they will continue the tradition with a series of workshops designed for parents desiring to better prepare their children for the social demands of school life.

Each lecture will focus on a different aspect of child care and will be delivered by an early development expert. “Baby Hearts: Giving Your Baby an Emotional Head Start,” the first, will be presented Sept. 15 by Linda Acredolo, a pioneer of the Baby Signs program and a professor at the University of California, Davis.

“These Kids Are Driving Me Crazy: The Power of Positive Guidance and Discipline” will be delivered Oct. 13 by Cheryl Erwin, a local marriage and family therapist, as well as a well-published author on the subject of parenting. The final presentation, “Mental Health: It’s Not Just for Grown-ups Anymore,” will be given Nov. 3 by Joyce Larsen, a certified expert in infant mental health.

The workshops will be held from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Joe Crowley Student Union theater. Cost is $25 per workshop or $60 for all three. Of the 20 to 25 trainings offered per year by the Center, these are the first to focus on school readiness.

The Center also provides child care to roughly 200 children in 16 classes, as well as offering summer camps and home-based or center-based child support through the Early Head Start program. In all services that the Center offers, its staff follows the constructionist teaching philosophy, which was developed in northern Italy in the mid-twentieth century by Reggio Emilia.

“It’s based on the idea that we know kids are capable of learning pretty much anything,” explained Carter-Steele. “Our job is to give them opportunities to do so.”

This means that Center’s classrooms are stocked with plenty of natural materials, such as rocks and seashells. Students throughout

all five sites of the Center in Reno also remain with the same group of kids and the same teacher for several years instead of starting over with new peers and instructors each fall.

With the help of proceeds from the “Building the Foundations for School Readiness” workshops, the Center plans to take staff on a trip to Italy in November to learn more about the constructionist approach and new ways to stimulate the children in their care. In the meantime, Carter-Steele hopes that the workshop participants will focus on parent-child relationships as a way to prepare children for social interaction outside of the family.

To register for the workshops, contact Becky Carter-Steele at beckycs@unr.edu or (775) 682-8487. For more information, visit the Child and Family Resource Center website.


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