Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

"My Mother Didn't Play about Education": Low-Income, African American Mothers' Early School Experiences and Their Impact on School Involvement for Preschoolers Transitioning to Kindergarten

Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

"My Mother Didn't Play about Education": Low-Income, African American Mothers' Early School Experiences and Their Impact on School Involvement for Preschoolers Transitioning to Kindergarten

Article excerpt

The Obama Administration's Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Program (U.S. Department of Education, n.d.) has refocused national attention on early childhood education and the importance of school readiness for low-income, African American children who, relative to their White peers, are disproportionately at risk for being unprepared for the transition to kindergarten (Lee, Autry, & Williams, 2008; Lee & Bowen, 2006). The transition to kindergarten is a critical developmental period, setting the stage for children's long-term educational trajectories (Lee & Bowen, 2006; Rouse, Brooks-Gunn, & McLanahan, 2005). While multiple factors influence educational outcomes, researchers have documented a positive relationship between parental involvement and children's educational performance (Jeynes, 2003; Wasik & Hindman, 2010). Parental involvement refers to parental engagement in activities to promote children's academic success, including academic and non-academic activities that are home-based (e.g., supervising homework) and school-based (e.g., volunteering, attending meetings, interacting with teachers; Barbarin et al., 2008). Childhood researchers report a positive relationship between parental involvement and various literacy, language, and problem-solving skills associated with later academic success. It is also related to positive attitudes about education (Downer & Pianta, 2006; Hoover-Dempsey et al., 2005).

Researchers document a relationship between parental involvement and socio-demographic variables, in some cases, reporting higher levels of parent involvement among populations with higher levels of education (McWayne, Campos, & Owsianik, 2008), compared to low levels of parental involvement for African American and low-income families with school-age (Cooper, 2009; Lopez, 2012), and preschool-age children (Henrich & Gadaire, 2008). Nevertheless, research on low-income, African American families of preschoolers enrolled in Head Start has shown higher levels of parental engagement and very promising outcomes for young children (Castro et al., 2004). Other studies find variability within socioeconomic status (SES) groups in relation to levels of parent involvement, suggesting that additional factors may be operating (Green et al., 2007), including parental developmental histories. Researchers suggest that low-income, African American parental involvement behaviors are related to parents' histories and early school experiences (Miller, Dilworth-Bart, & Hane, 2011). Studies with racially diverse samples reported that parents with positive parenting experiences growing up duplicated these experiences and were involved in their children's education. Parents with negative parental involvement experiences rejected these practices as they parented their children (Barnett & Taylor, 2009; Miller, Dilworth-Bart, & Hane, 2011; Raty, 2007).

Key strengths characterize the current research. Research documents the importance of parental involvement for children's long-term academic trajectories (Barnard, 2004; Jeynes, 2005). It also highlights the relationship between demographic variables and parent participation, identifying low levels of parental participation for African American and low-income families and children (O'Brien et al., 2002). Furthermore, investigators report variability within SES and racial groups, in some cases, reporting high levels of parental involvement for some low-income, African American families (Marcon, 1999).Researchers find that parents' educational histories may inform parental involvement with their own children (Raty, 2007; Taylor, Clayton, & Rowley, 2004). Limitations also characterize the current research. Much of the research on parent involvement focuses on elementary school-age children and adolescents (Fan & Chen, 2001; Jeynes, 2005). Fewer studies have examined parental involvement during the preschool years (Castro et al., 2004; Nelson, 2004). …

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