Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Parent Engagement Practices Improve Outcomes for Preschool Children

Posted on March 6, 2017

Parent Engagement Practices Improve Outcomes for Preschool Children

Children begin learning at home long before they ever reach the classroom, so parents play a critical role in supporting early childhood learning and school readiness.

But low-income families often face many barriers to providing high-quality early educational opportunities for their children. As a result, there is a wide achievement gap between children from low-income families and those from high-income families. This gap starts early. Kindergarten teachers report fewer than half of children from low-income homes are “ready to succeed in school.”

Supporting parents’ efforts to help their children develop during the preschool years improves child school readiness, reduces child behavior problems, enhances child social skills, and promotes academic success. Effective parent engagement programs can help close the gap in school readiness associated with family income.

Many preschools do include efforts to support parent engagement but many lower income families do not participate. Rigorous intervention studies with low-income parents suggest that intensive, strategic efforts are needed to ensure preschool children are ready for school.

Many effective parent support programs focus on the earliest years of life (ages 0-3). To address children’s school readiness needs, however, parent engagement efforts need to intensify during the preschool years. The following approaches, based on randomized-controlled trials, provide the strongest evidence that focused parent engagement programs during the preschool years can improve child outcomes.

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