(2017) | Useful to: Parent Centers, preschool personnel, and parents of preschool-aged children

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 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.

Programs that promote positive parenting practices and parent-child relationships. During multiple sessions, parents are taught how to focus attention on their children, set clear expectations, use praise to reinforce positive behavior, and effectively set limits to reduce parent-child conflict and negative parenting practices.

Programs that promote home learning activities and effective teaching strategies. These programs are typically delivered individually during home visits, or through a series of school-based parent group meetings. Parents are given learning materials and shown how to use them to help their children enjoy learning.

Programs that strengthen parent-teacher partnerships. By facilitating communication and collaboration between parents and teachers, these programs boost child academic and social-emotional skill development.

Programs that emphasize child physical health. These programs are designed to increase parent knowledge about nutrition and/or physical activity, build parenting skills (particularly parenting strategies around healthy eating and exercising), and restructure the home environment to facilitate healthy and active lifestyles.

With 32 million children in the United States living in poverty or low-income homes, it’s imperative that we come together and build on what works to promote parent engagement, reduce the income-based achievement gap, and give all children the opportunity for school readiness.

This 10-page issue brief, which is accompanied by a 2-minute video, was created by The Pennsylvania State University with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Begin with the 2-minute video, then access the brief, at: