January 23 – Homeschool teachers from the Teen Parent Related Services program at Ector County ISD distribute age-appropriate books for parents to read to their children approximately every two and a half months.
First deployed in September, Homebound teacher Hortencia del Bosque said she secured a grant of about $5,000 from the Education Foundation to begin Early Literacy Jumpstart.
In his office in the George HW New Tech Odessa building, there are bins of books for different campuses organized by age, and del Bosque has a list of books.
“We try to give them a book every two and a half months. Each time they receive a book, I continue to give them this reading guide to help them reinforce the importance of reading for their child,” said said del Bosque. .
She has a list of questions and answers about the benefits of reading to your children, such as what you should read to your newborn; when and how should you start reading to your baby; how many minutes a day should you read to your baby.
“In these questions I’ve also broken it down by age, like when it was born, which is important for them to remember that the back layer of their baby’s eyes can’t fully detect light, that’s the reason why contrasting black and white is so important in those early books. And then at 3 months when that’s developed, then contrast and color and pattern and texture and sound are introduced, so… that’s educate them as well as give them the tools, the books that are appropriate for that developmental age,” del Bosque said.
Del Bosque said she also sends parents reminders about the importance of reading texts, GIFS, quotes and facts between book distribution periods.
The Early Literacy Jumpstart project is a bit outside the norm for del Bosque as she is a retired Odessa high school English teacher and department head.
“I learned a lot and I created this grant, wrote this grant, researched early literacy and the importance of reading and the types of books you should read to your children at different ages and so right away,” she said.
Her motivation wasn’t just that she was dealing with students who were new parents, but the results of what she saw in high school when students didn’t have that foundation.
Another factor was Superintendent Scott Muri’s revelation that less than 35% of children were ready for kindergarten. Del Bosque began to wonder how this was possible.
“And then I started thinking, I’m dealing with a group of parents. Maybe I can do something now to help build literacy, so I just started researching and j wrote this grant,” she said.
The initiative required an adjustment for the team as they are used to working directly on the health and well-being of their students and parents and their babies.
“…We are not used to working with the education of these infants, so it was really out of the box. … Now everyone seems to agree. The students love it They’re asking for the next book, I’m actually now on DonorsChoose…to try to help continue the inventory that I have and maintain it for the next three, four years, because we really want our new- born keep reading,” Del Bosque said.
Teen Parent Services Coordinator Rose Valderaz said the program is essential to the work they do. She said the stronger the drive, the brighter the future for the baby and the students in the program.
“…It’s a proven fact that you can choose who will be a dropout by mastering reading in third grade. That’s not acceptable,” Valderaz said in an email. “We want all of our babies (and) students to understand the importance of interacting with their babies. It’s too easy to stick a cell phone in front of a child and we want better for our children. Reading books with a great selection is I fully support the Early Literacy Jumpstart initiative that Hortencia has put in place and appreciate my entire team and so many others who are part of this work.
Celeste Potter, Director of the Education Foundation, said the foundation was honored to support ECIDD’s Early Literacy Jumpstart grant.
“Reading is a fundamental step in helping children learn and succeed in school. This program complements ECIDD’s Bookworms literacy program and allows us to reach children at an even younger age,” Potter said in an email.
Del Bosque noted that the TPRS program aims to alleviate and eliminate, where possible, the barriers high school or high school students face in completing their education and graduating, even if they are parents.
“That’s our main job, but we also help them be better parents in terms of the health and care of that child, but that for me… goes hand in hand when you think about the importance of education. That isn’t we should be concerned only with raising the parents, it’s the child, so I think it was interesting to see some of the reactions in the first deployment, especially the male parents that we have. They usually reacted by saying things like, you know, my kid is too young. They can’t read,” del Bosque said.
But reading to them helps to prepare a learning base for them.
“…I really make a point of trying to impress men who have sons…that it’s even more important that they see their dad reading to them to break some of the stereotypes that we have about education; you know, boys are only good at math, science and sports,” she said.
The opposite is often said of women or girls that they are not supposed to be good at science and math, she said.
Currently, she says, TPRS has 90 active students, but that fluctuates.
Del Bosque has two students and fellow TPRS homeschooler Kimberly Shannon Bryer has one.
“But we have a list of upcoming homecomings and we know they are due later in January or February…” she said.
Del Bosque added that they help parents with community services and benefits.
“…It’s been fun for me to do something different and certainly not in my usual area of experience as a high school English teacher,” she added.