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"Cracking Open"
Kids' Brains


"We were most impressed with how engaged the parents were with the speaker. They found the topic of child brain development fascinating and even asked for follow up workshops to gain further information," recalls Karen Dragon. "We have never been asked to repeat an event before!"

[content block] To introduce parents to the latest in brain research, Lynnhaven Elementary School invited a United Way speaker from the Raising a Reader program to its annual Family Literacy Night in Virginia Beach, Virginia. During the presentation, staff members and a guest storyteller entertained the children with literacy activities in the library. Community partners helped make the event a success by providing dinner and books for the participants.

The guest speaker presented information on brain development in a very clear, useful, and down to earth manner, with vocabulary that was easily understood by all. The program was not clinical, but focused on the practical. Everyday examples showed parents how they could use the information to be better parents and help their children to learn, and colorful diagrams of brain scans were used to illustrate the speaker's points.

"We received notes and emails the very next day from parents stating that they went home and put the workshop into practice immediately and started interacting with their children in a more brain friendly manner. We had never received instant feedback like that! It was very powerful," shared Dragon, a Title I resource reading teacher.

Afterward, some parents indicated that they nearly decided not to attend because they thought the nature of the program might make it too advanced -- or too boring -- for them. They were, of course, delighted that they hadn't missed it, but their hesitation was a good cautionary note for the future. Probably the most important aspect of the program, and the one that most directly led to its success, was that the presentation highlighted practical applications of the research for parents.

When Dragon was transferred to Pembroke Elementary School, she held another successful brain-focused literacy night. Lacking the exceptional partners in education of her former school, she wasn't able to provide dinner at this event, but the cafeteria's fresh-baked cookies were a treat.

"While the participants ate the cookies, we showed them a PowerPoint presentation set to music that showcased every class in the school involved in a reading activity," said Dragon. "We also ordered and handed out to parents many of the fantastic free booklets offered from the U.S. Department of Education on reading tips for parents, which are a wonderful resource."

Parents in both schools appreciated that their children were happily occupied and well-supervised so that they could concentrate on the speaker without being distracted. They felt that this unique brain research program was designed "just for them."


Reading Tips for Parents
This free brochure can be ordered from the U.S. Department of Education; see the opening page of the booklet for ordering information. Of course, the online version can be printed and handed out too.