Sharing family stories

The neighborhood surrounding Hibbard Elementary School is home to more than 30 cultural and language groups. To bring these groups together and tie them to the school, Hibbard has developed an “exhibit in progress” that features photographs, family histories and children’s stories.

The ongoing project was the idea of photographer Kay Berkson, a friend of Hibbard’s art teacher. “I believe that for both adults and children sharing history, acknowledging differences and discovering commonality benefits the tellers, the learners and the larger community,” says Berkson.

Teachers and others interview parents and grandparents about their former homes and their beginnings in America and then translate the interviews into English. Professional writers write up the stories, and Berkson takes the photographs. In addition, each story is translated into 11 different languages, and copies are run off for distribution.

Currently the exhibit features seven families from Somalia, Pakistan, Vietnam, Iraq and Bosnia. Stories from Cambodia, Puerto Rico and Poland are in progress.

Principal Anthony Jelinek says the exhibit has helped the community come together. and parents have been very pleased that their input was needed for this project.

For more information, call Kay Berkson, (847) 864-7843 or Principal Anthony Jelinek, (773) 534-5191.

Getting the facts

Parents and teachers at 20 schools are taking part in a school improvement survey aimed at getting a clear picture of what parents do and don’t do to support their children’s learning.

Questions cover such activities as PTO meetings, volunteering in the classroom, voting in local school council elections, talking with teachers and attending parent-teacher conferences. The survey also asks about out-of-school activities such as visiting museums and the library.

Once the data are in and analyzed, local school councils will design programs to shore up areas of weakness.

The program was organized by the Chicago Association of Local School Councils (CALSC) and the Academic Development Institute in Springfield.

For more information, call Sheila Castillo, CALSC, (312) 663-3863.

Coffee talk

Every Thursday morning, parents, grandparents and community members are invited to Healy Elementary in Bridgeport for a “second cup of coffee.” The gathering affords the school the opportunity to bring parents up to date on the school’s curriculum. For example, with the science fair fast approaching, the school made science the focus of the November sessions. The school even asked a private-sector partner, Harza Engineering, to send engineers to talk about what a science fair project should contain. More than 40 parents typically attend.

For more information, call Gail Funk, Healy School, (773) 534-9170.

Parent to parent

The Chicago Public Schools Parents as Teachers First program trains low-income parents to take preschool lessons into the home and, thereby, serve as models for other parents. The program’s parent-mentors work with children and their families on school readiness skills such as numbers, colors and the alphabet. Preschoolers who have not been able to get into a preschool class are targeted. The parent mentors also help parents understand how to interact with their children and better prepare them for school.

For more information, call Kimberly Muhammed-Earl, Parents as Teachers First, (773) 535-8009.

Birth-to-3 parenting

Babies begin to learn as soon as they enter the world, and they learn fast. To help new parents make the most of their children’s first 18 months of life, the Chicago Public Schools is piloting Born to Learn, a program of the St. Louis-based Parents as Teachers National Center.

This school year, 28 parents are being educated about brain development and things parents can do to promote early learning. They are to visit 300 families. It is anticipated that the program will expand to include parents of children up to 3 years old.

The pilot is being supported by a three-year, $505,000 grant from the Robert R. McCormick Tribune Foundation.

For more information, call Jean Robbins, Chicago Born to Learn, (773) 535-8009.

Help for teen moms

The Chicago Public School’s Cradle to Classroom mentoring program targets expectant teenagers at 20 high schools. It aims to keep them and their infants healthy and to get the new moms back to school.

Older parents who are community residents make home visits during the pregnancy. The schools then provide counseling in such areas as brain development, parenting skills, stress management and sexual abstinence; participants may also be referred to social service agencies. Day-care centers have been established at the schools to care for the children until they are old enough for preschool classes.

More than 15 agencies are involved. They include Ounce of Prevention, the Chicago Department of Public Health and three hospitals, Bethany, Provident and Mt. Sinai.

For more information, call Valerie Price, Chicago Public Schools Department of Early Childhood Education, (773) 535-8197.

Courses galore

With the help of area businesses and institutions, Hammond Elementary School offers dozens of courses and activities for its parents. Parents can learn how to use a computer, brush up on their English or learn how to be better parents. They can attend craft classes, aerobics or other recreational activities. They can participate in discussions on drug and gang prevention, car-seat safety, consumer fraud, domestic violence and immunization. The program was created by a committee of administrators, staff, parents and business and community representatives. More than 300 parents have participated in training, and more than 400 parents have attended open houses and school activities.

For more information, call Julio Rivera, Hammond School, (773) 535-4580.

Parent resource center

The Chicago Public Schools’ Title I Parent Resource Center runs the Parents are Teachers, Too program in 30 schools, offering workshops on topics that principals believe would benefit parents. These include interviewing for jobs, self-esteem, motivating children to learn, conflict management and getting the most out of a parent-teacher conference.

Workshops are conducted at other schools upon request and may be tailored to students, parents, teachers and administrators. In addition, the center has a lending library and a variety of equipment parents may use, including photocopiers, laminating machines and computers. And it supplies materials for banners, announcements and the like.

For more information, call Doris Odem, Parent Resource Center, (773) 535-8156.

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