The research is clear: parent engagement is key to a child’s success“Children are more successful in school when their parents are actively involved in their learning and show an interest in their progress.”  Family engagement is also linked with stronger math and reading skills.

SPARK’s evaluation results bear this out. When the SPARK parent is more engaged, the SPARK child typically scores higher on the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment (or KRA). A higher KRA score means the child is more ready to succeed in kindergarten.

Because of this, SPARK takes parent engagement seriously! Parent engagement is cultivated in lots of ways:

  • Every nine weeks, the parent partner and parent work together to create a learning plan tailored to the individual child’s needs. This plan is the family’s road map to school readiness, and it’s the beginning of actively involving the parent in the child’s school readiness journey. 
  • During monthly SPARK lessons, the parent partner is typically seated on one side of the parent. The child is placed next to the parent on the other side. The parent partner is deliberately positioned more as a guide than as a teacher or authority figure.
  • The parent partner models engagement during lessons by asking open-ended questions and providing opportunities to dig into a topic and extend the learning. If the parent partner learns that a child has a specific interest, they’ll incorporate it into lessons where possible. They might use matchbox cars to teach letters, or dinosaur toys to teach counting and categorizing. Between SPARK lessons, the parents can use those cars or dinosaurs to cultivate the child’s interest in learning. 
  • Because SPARK lessons typically take place in the family home, the parent partner can model engagement right in the child’s most familiar environment. The home environment becomes a part of the lessons. A pattern in the home’s curtains or floor tiles can be easily incorporated into a lesson about patterns, for instance; the parent can use the curtains or floor tiles to reinforce that lesson every time they enter the room with the child. This process helps the parent and child understand that learning takes place everywhere, not just in a classroom, and it requires no special equipment or supplies. It also helps parents learn to take advantage of natural learning opportunities as they arise, for instance, when counting stairs or socks, preparing meals, or looking for colors in the grocery store.  

This modeling helps the parent learn to engage in between SPARK lessons. After SPARK participation ends, the parent remains highly engaged in the child’s learning, thus setting the child up for success as they progress through school.