Friday, December 05, 2014

TOP STORY >> HIPPY prepares kids for school

Leader staff writer

The Pulaski County Special School District’s HIPPY branch is a free program that helps parents prepare their pre-K youngsters for school. There are HIPPY programs throughout Lonoke County and in Beebe.

HIPPY stands for Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters.

The PCSSD HIPPY program is based at Homer Adkins in Jacksonville. There are 135 children in the program throughout Pulaski County. The PCSSD HIPPY program began in 1986. It partners with Head Start, Adkins Pre-K and Emmanuel Learning Center for Children in Jacksonville.

HIPPY home visitors meet with parents once a week, teaching a 30-week curriculum for parents to work one-on-one with 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds. The HIPPY program focuses on a child’s motor skills, language development, literacy and math skills using fun activities, crafts, word recognition and songs. Books and learning materials are supplied. Monthly group meeting are held at Adkins Pre-K School with dinner, a speaker and activities for parents and students.

“It’s important for the parent to be involved in their child’s education early. They’ll be more involved throughout their school-age years. It gets parents comfortable talking with teachers and helps with child behavior,” HIPPY coordinator Carletta Wilson said.

Wilson said, when students fall behind in school, it often begins in Pre-K. Parents must be willing to take 10 to 15 minutes a day with their children to help them develop skills, she said.

HIPPY home visitors are qualified in early childhood development and take 30 hours of annual training. Parents set up the time and day of the visits, which can be at the families’ homes, at the workplace during lunch or just about anywhere. And HIPPY visitors review lessons with parents by role playing.

LaTonya Settles of Jacksonville is a parent in the PCSSD HIPPY program. It is her first year to be in HIPPY with her 3-year-old daughter.

“I think it is a good program. My daughter enjoys the work and activities we do. The house visits are nice. (The home visitor) teaches me how to teach my daughter,” Settles said.

Settles said some of the activities they did were making sock puppets and going on a scavenger hunt.

She also said HIPPY has been beneficial to her daughter. Her daughter was nonverbal, but now listens to the stories, and they keep her attention. She comprehends what she is learning and can answer Settles’ questions instead of simply repeating the words her mother said.

Wendy Bennett of Jackson-ville had her twin daughters in the program before entering kindergarten. She was seeking resources because they were born prematurely.

“I think the program is wonderful. It offers interactive learning at an age-appropriate level,” Bennett said.

She said HIPPY develops children’s intellects and motor skills by throwing a ball and having climbing activities.

“If there is a delay, HIPPY home visitors can catch it,” Bennett said.

Bennett said her children are at the top of their class.

HIPPY is supported through grants, so there is no cost for parents to enroll in the program if their family meets eligibility guidelines.

The kinds of people who can participate for free include a parent in the military serving overseas, low or no income, a parent without a high school diploma or a GED, limited English proficiency, a parent who was under the age of 18 when her child was born, someone who has an immediate family member with a history of substance abuse or addiction or has been arrested and convicted of drug-related charges and a parent with a history of abuse or neglect or who was a victim of abuse or neglect.

Their child can be a foster child, been born under six pounds, or have an imprisoned parent.

Wilson said HIPPY is trying to increase grant funding, which provides about $175 per child. It’s been that amount for the past 16 years.

But, she said, prices have increased for supplies and books, along with hosting dinners, travel mileage and training.

Parents can enroll at any time of year by calling the PCSSD HIPPY office at 501-982-2013 or stopping by.