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Virginia Journal of Education

Your Classroom

Connecting With Parents of Young Children

by Herman D. Clark and Lorraine Flood

In the 1990s, Bowling Park Elementary School in Norfolk attracted some media attention because of its success in engaging parents in the surrounding low-income neighborhoods. The school reached out through programs that were part of the nationally-known Comer/Zigler Initiative, a child development strategy which came to be known as CoZi.

The CoZi model connected families to the school through early childhood services for children in infancy through 36 months, preschool classes for three- and four-year-olds, and after-school care and summer camp for families in need of those services. This initiative engaged parents early and promoted their continuous involvement in their children’s development and learning. Parents learned to advocate for their children and for needed services, and they became empowered to be leaders in their school community.

How can educators today help parents build such a network? Given that very important learning takes place before a child enters school, can educators reach out and promote a shared responsibility for supporting children’s academic success?

We believe so. When schools create the environment necessary for welcoming and involving parents in real ways, a relational pact between educators and parents can be formed.  Through this agreement, parent engagement can begin as early as the preschool years and continue through the child’s education.

The first feature of parent engagement as a relational network between parents and educators is attachment. Attachment is the bond of relationships, is linked to social and emotional ties to others, and is best expressed when others care about what you think and expect. Educators can work together to determine ways to link parents to the school community. For example, when parents respond to invitations to attend programs, meetings or events, it’s an indicator of attachment. CoZi schools include teaming structures to bring together teachers, parents and others in the community. Schools that have structures for teaming can find many ways to attach parents to those teams.

Conducting a door-to-door survey of parents regarding their need for early childhood services is an attachment strategy that can link parents to the school community even before the child is enrolled. This personal touch proved to be very effective at Bowling Park when the CoZi Initiative was piloted.  It enabled the school to collect data and it also began to build enthusiasm and support.

The second feature of parent engagement in a relational network is commitment.  Commitment is the dedication to relationships, and is best expressed when others are willing to follow standards, practices, principles or guidelines that further those relationships. Educators can create strategies to encourage parental commitment to school practices and principles of child development, such as offering training in early reading strategies to use at home.

The third feature of parent engagement in a relational network is engagement itself. Engagement is the life of relationships, and is best expressed when one views the activities of a place as valuable and legitimate. Offering quality early childhood programs and child care to those in need is a way to demonstrate to families the importance of an early start and continuous support for learning. Getting parents to serve on a governance team or parent teacher organization committee can become a goal of school leaders. Fulfilling this goal will give parents a jumpstart to become connected, committed and involved early and place them on a path for continuous involvement.

As former members of the Bowling Park staff, we are exploring the idea of collaborating with others to help mobilize parents of young children who live in public housing communities. This could involve offering classes in advocacy skills and civic awareness, even spiritual growth. A training curriculum would include input from both parents and partners.

We once read, “Children and trees share one thing in common: they are planted for the future.” A relational network including parents, educators and the community is an effective strategy for supporting parents as they seek to advocate for their children during the early years and well into the future.
Clark is a retired principal at Bowling Park Elementary School. Flood, also retired, served as the school’s CoZi coordinator.


Your Classroom Project:
Show Me the Money!

A grant is always a good thing for you and your students, but in today’s economy it can be a great thing. Here are some places you can look for some extra funding to turn a project you’ve been dreaming about into reality:

VEA Mini-Grants. The Association annually offers grants of up to $500 to fund classroom projects. Deadline for the next round of awards is June 1. To learn more, visit the VEA website Grants and Awards section at

The NEA Foundation. Log on to for details on funding through the Student Achievement and Learning & Leadership grants, and the Books Across America program.

Tool Factory. Grants for classroom hardware and software are available through Tool Factory and Olympus cameras. Visit to learn more.

•  A clearinghouse. Visit to see a list of funding sources, including eligibility criteria and deadlines. Click on “grant opportunities” on this site for a listing of potential funders among government agencies and foundations.

Charitable organizations. Sites such as and allow you to submit a proposal, which may be matched with someone from a list of donors who have expressed interest in helping to pay for worthy classroom projects.

Come to the Aid of
Stuttering Students

When a teacher hears a student stutter, the immediate reaction is a mixture of concern and questions. Here are eight tips from The Stuttering Foundation that can help curb a student’s frustrations and help keep you at ease:

1. Do not tell the student to “slow down” or “just relax.”

2. Do not complete words for the child or talk for him or her.

3. Help all members of the class to take turns talking and listening. All children, especially those who stutter, find it much easier to talk when there are few interruptions and they have the listeners’ attention.

4. Expect the same quality and quantity of work from the student who stutters as from the one who doesn’t.

5. Speak with the student in an unhurried way, pausing frequently.

6. Convey that you are listening to the content of the message, not how it is said.

7. Have a one-on-one conversation with the student who stutters about needed accommodations in the classroom. Respect the student’s needs but do not be enabling.

8. Don’t make stuttering something to be ashamed of. Talk about stuttering just like any other matter.

For more information on how you can help a child who stutters, visit The Stuttering Foundation’s website at

Know Your Status!
Your Virginia teaching license is good for only five years, and the commonwealth will not notify you when it’s up for renewal—it’s your responsibility to monitor that. However, the Virginia Department of Education provides online services to help you know your status. To find out when your license expires, or to access other information on renewals, fees, replacements and applications, visit the VDoE website at and go to the “Teacher Education and Licensure” section.



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