Resource center helps parents help their children in learning

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 17, 2003

Parents have an extra hand when helping their children master skills at Natchez-Adams Schools, and all they have to do is go and get it.

Games, flash cards, worksheets and other hands-on activities line the walls and stock the bookshelves of parent centers across the district.

All schools, excluding Natchez High School, have a parent resource center for parents to check out materials to help their children with many subjects &045;&045; mainly math, reading and language arts. Also, there are parent liaisons in the center to aid parents in choosing materials specific to their child’s need.

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Cookie Gibbons, Title I parent liaison, and LaTarsha Bernard, Barksdale Reading parent liaison, keep the parent center at McLaurin Elementary moving full speed ahead.

&uot;Our main goal is to promote the involvement of parents,&uot; Bernard said. &uot;We do whatever we can to bring the parents in.&uot;

And so far, that has been a lot of activities to draw the parents in.

Most recently, the center hosted about 85 parents at a parents’ night Oct. 30 with food, door prizes and Bingo. The night was an end to a month-long reading project students participated in, filling a Bingo card by reading books &045;&045; the names replacing the numbers on the cards.

McLaurin Principal Karen Tutor said the goal of the center for the year was to promote student achievement.

&uot;I’m so impressed with their creativity to promote parental involvement in student achievement,&uot; Tutor said.

But the task is not only to get the parents to show up but also to use the center with the help of the teachers.

Teachers help parents choose areas in which students need more help, writing down problem areas and giving that to the parent center staff. Then, Gibbons said she picks material that fits the students’ needs.

&uot;The main thing is to make sure we can get our parents and teachers to work hand in hand,&uot; Gibbons said.

There is no lack of materials with a room full of books and activities just waiting to be used.

&uot;We still don’t know everything that is in here,&uot; Gibbons admitted.

Of course, there are favorites &045;&045; and many of them hang along the left wall. Colorful, drawstring bags containing a book, activity suggestion sheet and, in most cases, a puppet provide a good reading tool for parents to use at home. Teachers even check them out to use in the classroom from time to time. And below them are dozens of backpacks. These are filled with books, activities and some kind of hands-on manipulative like maps or characters.

&uot;If you want to be there for the child, they have the material that will help you,&uot; parent Gwendolyn Smith said.

Smith is a frequent visitor of the center as are many parents. Smith said he wants her daughter, fourth-grader Jamalyn, to be the best she can be, so she is constantly at the school, talking to the teacher and in the parent center.

It is not that Jamalyn needs a lot of extra help, but Thursday, they gathered materials to focus on math, the weaker of her subjects.

Jamalyn does not seem to mind all of the help her &uot;great mom&uot; gives her and likes to use the materials from the center.

&uot;It’s like a game and you can learn too,&uot; Jamalyn said.

Who would mind that?

This supplement to the 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. instruction is not new to McLaurin Elementary or the district. In fact, Natchez-Adams was one of the first to start the centers and went across the state to help other districts begin theirs.

It started at Martin School in 1987 and moved to just a districtwide center in 1989. In the late 90’s, each school got its own center and now run at full-time.

The district’s center is still operational, complete with take home computers for parents to use software programs with their children at home.

The message is simple: &uot;Utilize the material we have; nothing costs a penny,&uot; Bernard said.