UH Manoa Center on the Family awarded $1.6 million grant

'Learning Connections' will help preschoolers become ready for school

University of Hawaiʻi
Posted: Oct 17, 2005

HONOLULU — The Center on the Family at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa has been awarded a $1.6 million grant to implement an innovative program to help preschoolers from low-income families in Hawaiʻi get a head start on the road to reading and school success. The program, called Learning Connections, is a federally funded Early Reading First program operated in collaboration between the UH Mānoa Center on the Family, the Honolulu Community Action Program—Oʻahu Head Start (OHS), and the Hawaiʻi Department of Education (HDOE).

The project is targeted to improve the language, literacy, and math skills of 300 three- to five-year-old preschoolers from low-income families in 10 Head Start classrooms throughout Oʻahu. It will involve the participation of 25 Head Start teachers, the families of the preschoolers, and 20 HDOE kindergarten teachers. All of the children come from families living below the poverty level, 24 percent speak English as a second language, 9.5 percent have special learning needs, and 85 percent are of Asian American and Pacific Island heritage.

"Learning Connections is the first research-based curriculum designed to meet the needs of Hawaiʻi‘s multicultural children," said project director Dr. Barbara DeBaryshe. "We have shown that preschool learning can be age-appropriate, challenging, and fun, all at the same time. We give both teachers and parents intensive support as they work together to help children explore the same areas of knowledge at home and at school."

"Our data show that Learning Connections works. Teachers and parents hone their teaching skills and become more aware of each child‘s potential, and children make greater gains over the school year in Learning Connections than they do in classrooms that use other popular preschool curricula. We hope that preschool teachers and directors will visit Learning Connections classrooms and see them as a resource and model for similar educational innovations across the State," said DeBaryshe.

The goal of the program is to increase Head Start children‘s school readiness by increasing the intensity and quality of early literacy and math instruction that children receive at school and at home. Head Start teachers will receive extensive training and support through in-class coaching, workshops, college courses, and personal professional development plans. Family members will learn how to support their children‘s development by making connections between what is learned at school and at home. Finally, Head Start and HDOE kindergarten teachers will work with families to ensure a smooth and positive transition from preschool to kindergarten.

The Early Reading First (ERF) program is part of the federal government's No Child Left Behind initiative and was created to ensure that preschool-age children, who are considered "at risk," have the instruction, experiences and environment that will help them to enter kindergarten on the same footing as other children and prepared for a lifetime of learning. Out of 594 initial proposals, the Learning Connections is one of only 33 three-year grants awarded by the federal Department of Education under the ERF program.

For more information about the grant, call Barbara DeBaryshe at 956-4140 or Dana Gorecki at 956-6608.