Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Parents Make the Difference in Education of Children

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Parents Make the Difference in Education of Children

Article excerpt

Byline: Tonyaa Weathersbee

April Grace's first teacher wasn't quite up to the job.

This teacher wound up getting locked up for dealing drugs. This teacher couldn't read. This teacher couldn't instill in Grace the bearings that would have deterred her from quitting school at age 15, and giving birth out of wedlock at age 16.

This teacher was Grace's mother. And children's mothers are their first and most important teacher.

But Grace won't be following her mother's lesson plan.

Now 28 and married, she's studying for her GED at Florida Community College at Jacksonville. She's even teaching her mother how to read.

By doing instead of talking, Grace is trying to build enough respect for education among her three children - ages 12, 10 and 8 - so that the temptation to fail won't consume them more than the drive to succeed.

"I realized after I'd gotten pregnant with my second child, that I didn't want my children to grow up like that," Grace told me.

"But I figured that if I didn't go back and get my education, what could I say to my kids? I knew that I had to set the example...I knew that if my kids didn't see me trying to make something out of my life, then they wouldn't try."

Grace, whose two younger children attend S.P. Livingston Elementary School near Eugene Butler Middle School, recently shared her story with more than 100 mothers during a Mother's Day brunch and workshop there.

At Livingston, which sits in the midst of an impoverished West Jacksonville area, officials have been trying a number of strategies to get more parents involved in their children's schooling.

That's crucial.

Reams of research show that regardless of income, culture or educational background, when parents show interest in their children's education, and when a parent shows that she values education, her children are successful in school - as if we really need research to tell us that.

But in poorer communities, it can be daunting to get parents to realize that. …

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