Javier Monroy and his son, Sebastian, 4, look for book titles to check out on one of the many computers at Arlington Central Library on Monday, September 24, 2012 in Arlington, VA. (Photo by Katherine Frey/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Study shows program increases Latino parents’ knowledge and benefits children

With one in five American children being Latino, projected to reach one in three by 2030, the success of Latino students is growing more and more crucial.

According to a study out today from the University of California, Berkeley, findings show that a program tied to Head Start, called Abriendo Puertas (“Opening Doors”), appears to significantly boost Latino parents’ knowledge about improving their children’s language and literacy, social-emotional skills, as well as health. It also shows that early parental involvement makes an impressive difference in their education.

“It makes perfect sense that the National Head Start Association has adopted the Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors program…,” said Yasmina Vinci, executive director of the National Head Start Association. “Parental involvement and community engagement are core elements of how Head Start has provided more than 27 million children a window of opportunity for success in life. Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors counteracts the damaging effects of inequity and is a positive catalyst toward positive generational change.”

Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors launched in 2007, and today, it reaches 22,000 families in 31 states and Puerto Rico.

“It speaks to the aspirations all parents have for their children and prepares them to help meet those aspirations – things they can do whether or not they speak English,” says the national director of the program, Sandra Gutierrez. “It’s very engaging.”

In 10 sessions, the Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors program teaches parents the importance of: early learning and development, such as the importance of preschool; communication and family goal-setting; nutrition and exercise; responsibility and quality education, such as library visits.

“I don’t want my daughter to be one of the statistics we learned about,” says mother of three, Natalia Camil of Los Angeles. “I’m glad I now understand what’s happening in the schools, so many not graduating. I’ve made a commitment to be involved in her education and will talk to other parents about it, too. As parents, what we do is of great consequence—I won’t forget that.”

The research showed before the training, only 43 percent of the surveyed parents knew all the answers to questions about early learning – the most important time period for children’s brain development. Afterward, the percentage increased to 89.

As far as what it takes to help their children be successful in school, just 12 percent of parents answered five or more of the seven questions right before the training, but the percentage increased to 77 after Abriendo Puertas.

The evaluation was based on questionnaires completed by 623 parents in 35 programs in six states. Approximately 85 percent of the parents were immigrants.

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