Monday, September 29, 2008

Baby College

Yesterday, I heard a fantastic report on NPR's "This American Life" about a truly innovative organization called the Harlem Children's Zone. The report was specifically about a program they offer, aptly named "Baby College."

Frustrated by the lack of results from the more conventional methods of trying to lift the impoverished out of their plight, Geoffrey Canada, Harlem Children's Zone's director, introduced a revolutionary idea: educating parents on how to raise children who will succeed. The idea was revolutionary because it wasn't parent-focused. It doesn't promise to move parents out of poverty, what it promises is to educate parents on how to raise children to succeed and lift up themselves.

Baby College offers expecting parents and parents of small children an alternative view on how to raise children. Emphasizing the importance of reading to children and peaceful parenting, this program provides real, learnable skills for parents who find themselves locked in a cycle they'd like not to perpetuate.

Their website states: "The goal is to create a "tipping point" in the neighborhood so that children are surrounded by an enriching environment of college-oriented peers and supportive adults, a counterweight to "the street" and a toxic popular culture that glorifies misogyny and anti-social behavior. "

And the statistics are horrifying:

33%--The chance that a black boy born in 2001 will go to prison.

60% of black men in their mid-thirties who dropped out of school have spent time in prison.

7% of black eighth-graders perform at grade level in math.

The work that the Harlem Children's Zone is doing isn't just ground-breaking, it's also successful. The vast majority of kids in the program perform at or above grade-level. And the parents who graduate from Baby College acquire a whole new set of parenting skills they wouldn't have elsewhere.


Dawn said...

This is great! I taught high school Child Development and Marriage and Family classes for 5 years. Like many high school students my students would complain about the way their parents did things, but most of my kids were low income and many were in family's that were heavily involved in gangs, drugs and abuse. I told them that it is difficult to do things different from the family norm but they must make a real effort to learn another way if they want their kids to have a better family life. If we don't learn new "tools" we almost always fall back to what we know when faced with challenges. Most of my students were really motivated to learn about other family systems and methods and how things could be different for them as parents later in life.
Programs like this are so necessary. Education is the key. Parents - all parents need the tools to deal with the stress of raising a little one who will someday be out on their own and hopefully contributing to the good in society.
Thanks for the uplifting news about this wonderful program.

Anonymous said...

If you can you should listen to the story:

If you want to help out the program check out the site. I signed up to make a small monthly donation. I also bought a set of books the list on their site and sent it to their head quarters directly from Amazon.

It's an inspiring program. Anice change from all the news about Wall St. greed.