Area schools urge parents to 'Be There' for children

October 2, 2007

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

Parents, be there for your children.

Help them with homework. Read them a bedtime story. When driving them to school or sitting around the dinner table, ask them what they are learning in their classes. Give them encouragement when they are feeling down. Let them know you care.

Such simple things go a long way toward helping children learn, according to local school administrators.

Henry County and Martinsville schools, as well as Carlisle School near Axton, are the first schools in Virginia to participate in a nationwide "Be There" campaign to encourage parental involvement in children's education.

The Harvest Foundation also is participating in the campaign, it announced Monday. In 2003, the foundation committed $5 million over five years to enhance instruction in local classrooms, as well as help fund professional development opportunities for teachers and school administrators.

Richard Killingsworth, executive director of the foundation, said "Be There" aims to help parents "make ordinary moments extraordinary" by connecting with their children during everyday routines.

Children are the community's most precious resource because they are the "building blocks" to the future, said DeWitt House, assistant superintendent of the Henry County Schools.

In a child's life, "the first educator is the parent," said Martinsville school Superintendent Scott Kizner. The first responsibility of a parent, he said, should be "to make sure their children are prepared for the learning that occurs every day."

Fliers promoting "Be There" will be sent home to local families with students, and people will notice promotional billboards and banners in the community soon, said foundation Assistant Director Allyson Rothrock.

Research done by The Parent Institute, an organization encouraging parents to be involved in their children's education, shows that even if children are in school, their families are their main educational influences.

Students whose parents are involved in their schools usually fare better in school than students whose parents are not involved, the research shows. And, children from minority and low-income families seem to benefit most from parent involvement.

Parents "would find they would have a great time" if they get involved in their children's schools, said Rebecca Brown. Her daughter, Brittaney, is a student at Magna Vista High School.

They were among several students and parents who took part in Monday's announcement of the "Be There" program. They were chosen by school officials.

Judy Edmonds' son, Robert, and daughter, Lindsay, attend Bassett High School. She enjoys talking with her children at mealtime, she said.

The Edmonds frequently eat together, even if it is not a home-cooked meal, she added.

Lindsay Edmonds said her mother has taught her to do what is right — not necessarily what is popular.

"They give me the motivation to motivate myself," Robert Edmonds said of his parents.

Sydnie Williams, a student at Patrick Henry Elementary School and daughter of Sheilah Williams, said that sometimes when she does not have homework, her mom gives her educational activities to do.

Sheilah Williams said she is just trying to help her daughter learn all she can so she will have the best life possible.

Brittaney Brown said her mother constantly gives her encouragement.

"Not once has my mom never been there for me," she said.


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