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Messages From Home

Messages From Home: The Parent-Child Home Program For Overcoming Educational Disadvantage

Phyllis Levenstein
Susan Levenstein
Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Messages From Home
    Book Description:

    The Parent-Child Home Program, a pre-preschool home visiting program, has grown greatly since the first edition of Messages from Home was published in 1988. This expanded and updated edition shows the continued success of this program-spearheaded by the late Phyllis Levenstein-which prepares at-risk children for school success, overcoming educational disadvantage.

    Since The Parent-Child Home Program was founded in the 1960s, it has enriched the cognitive, social, and emotional school readiness of tens of thousands of children. The Program's methods, its theoretical underpinnings, and its impressive results are presented in detail. The success stories of both parents and children make inspiring reading. The combination of lively writing and data-driven scientific rigor give it both broad appeal and academic relevance.

    eISBN: 978-1-59213-678-0
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Kathryn E. Barnard

    I am honored to be asked to write a foreword for this second edition of the book about The Parent–Child Home Program. Phyllis Levenstein was a truly remarkable individual. She had foresight to develop an effective intervention that has proven to be relevant to academic achievement of children, especially school readiness and high school completion. More than forty years ago, when she developed the pilot work, there was no empirical evidence, as we now have, about the impact of a low-verbal environment on a young child’s development. However, as a strong advocate of developmental theory, she was guided about...

  4. Coauthor’s Preface
    (pp. xiii-xx)
    Susan Levenstein
  5. Prologue to the Second Edition
    (pp. xxi-xxvi)
    Phyllis Levenstein

    Messages from Homewas first published in 1988 as an introduction to the background, theory, and effectiveness with low-income children of the two-year intervention then called the Mother-Child Home Program. It was addressed to educators, social service personnel, policymakers, and present or potential Program staff members. Nearly twenty years have elapsed since that book was written, and much has changed in those years with regard to the Program and its social context, although many of the latter’s negative aspects unfortunately have not improved.

    The chapter introducing real-life examples of Program families (Chapter 1) has remained essentially unchanged in this new...

  6. Chronology
    (pp. xxvii-xxx)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 1-4)

    Humanity’s most ancient dialogue—the verbal exchange between parent and young child—is at the core of The Parent–Child Home Program.

    The Parent–Child Home Program is a low-cost pre-preschool intervention, developed between 1965 and 1982 using $3 million of federal and private funding, to help low-income parents prevent their toddlers’ future school problems. It first reached into the homes of families in a poverty pocket on Long Island, New York, and it has been implemented widely elsewhere since. By now, four decades of experimental research have examined the results of The Parent–Child Home Program and tested its...

  8. 1. Two Mothers, Two Children: Program Participants
    (pp. 5-22)

    The July morning was hot. Ms. Willard was awake, had to be. Two-year-old Carol had dragged the sheet until she had almost tumbled her mother out of bed. Demanded breakfast. Paid no attention to the heat in the small room, which was crowded by a loaded dresser, a chair without a back, and several overflowing boxes. Ms. Willard’s welfare checks didn’t provide much furniture. When the sun came around to that side of the housing project, it would beat into the curtainless window. Yet better to lie still now than get up.

    But Carol wanted breakfast. She was crying and...

  9. 2. Poverty in the Twenty-First Century: Parental Love Fights Back
    (pp. 23-38)

    The Parent–Child Home Program was devised as a way to help parents and their small children to use the tools of education and improved self-esteem to climb out of poverty. This is still the main goal of the Program, and it is just as essential in the United States of the twenty-first century as it was four decades ago.

    Much has changed in this country since the time The Parent–Child Home Program was first conceived in 1963. At that time, poverty was highly visible and highly worrisome, and solving the poverty problem was widely viewed as a legislative...

  10. 3. “Show, Not Tell”: The Parent–Child Home Program Method
    (pp. 39-70)

    The Parent–Child Home Program was founded on the proposition that a low-income child’s best preparation for school, like other children’s, is a cognitively and emotionally supportive parent–child network that starts in pre-preschool years. This network’s three main cables are the parent’s verbal and nonverbal nurturing, the child’s intellectual growth, and the child’s social–emotional growth. They are connected by strands of reciprocally reinforcing behaviors leading from parent to child and from child to parent.

    The Program first surmised, and later demonstrated, that such a network can develop from positive interaction, especially verbal interaction, with a beloved primary caregiver....

  11. 4. Underpinnings: The Theory behind The Parent–Child Home Program
    (pp. 71-85)

    The Parent–Child Home Program was not conceived in a vacuum. Earlier work by an august series of “giants” inspired and laid the basis for this unassuming yet effective program for very young, economically disadvantaged children and their parents. The Program’s apparently simple method for preventing educational disadvantage rests on a complex theoretical and empirical interdisciplinary foundation involving concepts related to cognitive, attachment, and social issues and owes debts to thinkers and investigators in anthropology, philosophy, psychology, and sociology.

    The ideas and data culled from selected thinkers in laying the groundwork for the Program highlighted the differing and often interwoven...

  12. 5. How Effective Is The Parent–Child Home Program?
    (pp. 86-109)

    In the first chapter of this book, we met Ms. Carter and Ms. Willard, the mothers of Jo-Jo Carter and Carol Willard. They were quite different from each other although both were receiving welfare assistance. Ms. Carter, the only one of the two to have graduated from high school, showed greater self-confidence, initiative, and interactive behavior with her child in home sessions, and a more positive attitude toward The Parent–Child Home Program at the start than did Ms. Willard. Ms. Carter was interested, even eager, to join the Program and participated actively in it from the beginning. Toward the...

  13. 6. Methodological Issues in Intervention Research: Lessons from The Parent–Child Home Program Experience
    (pp. 110-123)

    The Parent–Child Home Program has a strong record of research showing its benefits. We have summarized these studies in Chapter 5 and will present each of them in more detail in Chapter 11. But in the process of conducting subject-randomized experimental evaluations of Program effects, researchers have encountered a variety of difficulties. Since this experience is important for The Parent–Child Home Program and may bring lessons valuable for other researchers in the field, it is worth examining in some detail.

    The gold standard for evaluating interventions is the true experimental design: Researchers divide a pool of subjects into...

  14. 7. From Laboratory to Real World: Successful Replication of a Successful Intervention
    (pp. 124-152)

    Even sophisticated observers may think that the essential tasks for producing a new social program occur during its development: the creation and refinement of an idea; the carrying out of a model program; and the researching of the model’s effectiveness. Once these steps have been accomplished, the program developer simply hands over the program to its new administrators in the real world and moves on to other projects—or at least so it seems.

    Alas, it’s not so simple. What was successful in the research setting may turn out to be a failure in the real world. Model programs are...

  15. 8. Preventing a Dream from Becoming a Nightmare: The Ethics of Home Visiting Programs
    (pp. 153-159)

    The first institution to conduct a home-based program for families was the family itself. Whether nuclear or extended, matrilineal or patrilineal, poor or rich, families acted for most of human existence as mini-Departments of Health, Education, and Welfare providing medical and nursing care, the cognitive socialization of the young considered necessary for survival, and as much social service as they could manage.

    Outside institutions gradually took over a large part of these family functions until, by the middle of the last century, it began to appear to many that the family had only three residual jobs: nurture and socialization of...

  16. 9. Ludic Literacy: Prelude to Instrumental Literacy
    (pp. 160-167)

    The rate of illiteracy in the United States is alarming. In 2003, 30 million, or 14 percent, of adults had virtually no literacy skills (Below Basic), and another 63 million could read only at a basic level barely adequate for the simplest everyday tasks (National Center for Education Statistics, 2005). In response to our society’s concern, a drive has been intensifying over several decades to offer, coax, or even bribe the nonreading adult public into literacy classes. It is a well-intentioned effort aimed at equipping people with reading skills needed—for instance—to fill out applications for jobs and driving...

  17. 10. Messages from Home: Meditations and Conclusions
    (pp. 168-181)

    Forty years have gone into developing The Parent–Child Home Program, building a reliable replication method so that the Program could be exported outside its original research setting, documenting its beneficial effects, and disseminating its model ever more widely. The Program has helped children in myriad settings—inner city, rural, suburban; European American, African American, Native American, Asian American; Alaskan Eskimo villages, New Mexican Indian reservations, northern Canada, the Commonwealth of Bermuda, Turkish immigrant and Gypsy communities in the Netherlands; immigrants to the United States from dozens of countries—under the auspices of every sort of nonprofit organization.

    Wherever the...

  18. 11. The Parent–Child Home Program in Writing: Publications by and about the Program, 1968–2007
    (pp. 182-228)

    The Parent–Child Home Program has closely scrutinized its method and its outcomes every step of the way. The result has been a large body of scientific literature, flanked by numerous reports in newspapers and other media. This chapter tells the tale of the Program from its beginnings in the words that have been written about it. A first section presents in chronological order the articles, reports, and book chapters produced for a professional audience over forty years. A second nonprofessional section includes government reports and a sampling of journalistic pieces aimed at the general public. A complete citation is...

  19. APPENDIX. Outcome Measures Created by The Parent–Child Home Program
    (pp. 229-232)
  20. References
    (pp. 233-248)
  21. Index
    (pp. 249-258)