SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

June 14, 2013

Column: A winning combination

The Parent-Child Home Program recently celebrated 25 years of service to parents and young children in Salem. The program is a win-win-win situation for the children and parents it serves and for the Salem Public Schools.

What is the PCHP?

PCHP is a program based on the undeniable evidence that children of poor and/or poorly educated parents generally have smaller vocabularies than better-off peers. Lack of vocabulary is a major drawback to school success. The Parent-Child Home Program sends people trained to demonstrate verbal interaction between parents and very young children through books and play into the homes of 2- and 3-year-olds. It seeks out parents whose socio-economic profile and/or the experiences of a child’s older siblings indicate that the child would be very likely to experience difficulty in school. Simply put, it seeks to give poor children something that otherwise would separate them from better-off peers in regard to schooling. It gives them words.

How did this program come to be?

Program founder Dr. Phyllis Levenstein was a clinical psychologist on Long Island, N.Y. She noticed similarities among many of her poor and less-educated clients: They did not speak to their children with anywhere near the frequency of middle-class peers. They almost never read to their children and seldom played with them. Almost all of their children struggled in school.

All of Dr. Levenstein’s findings are supported by later independent research. Consider that:

First-grade children from higher income groups know about twice as many words as lower-income children (Graves, Brunetti and Slater, 1982; Graves and Slater, 1987).

“Once established, differences in vocabulary knowledge are difficult to eliminate and as a result continue to manifest themselves as students move through school” (Coyne, Simmons and Kame’enui, 2004; Hart and Risley, 1995). As Blachowicz et al. (2006) contend:

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