Organization exec wants to see Mississippi program expanded
By Candi Wyatt
WASHINGTON, D.C. – A packed-ballroom audience burst into cheers and applause when former Secretary of State, senator and first lady Hillary Clinton said she was proud to be introduced as a “HIPPY mom and even more thrilled to be a HIPPY grandma” [to be].
Clinton addressed the Home Instructions for Parents of Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY) USA 2014 National Conference 25thAvima D. Lombard Award Dinner, Monday night, April 28, at the Kellogg Conference Hotel on the campus of Gallaudet University. Lombard, a Chicago native, established the program in 1969 while serving as a researcher at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
HIPPY, an evidenced-based program, works with families in the home to support parents in their critical role as their child’s first and most important teacher,” (hippyusa.org). Clinton introduced HIPPY to the United States when she was the first lady of Arkansas.
The conference theme was “Telling Our Story,” and Clinton did just that. “HIPPY has changed the lives of so many people,” she stressed. She also encouraged mothers to talk, sing and read to their babies. “While overall early childhood development programs like HIPPY have grown rapidly over the past decade, over parental engagement is actually on the decline,” said Clinton. She pointed out that in 1998 about half of all parents in the U.S. were reading to their children daily. “Now, that number is about a third, so we are going in the wrong direction,” she added.
“She gave a remarkable speech about the importance of early childhood education and the key role parents play in helping their children to be prepared for school,” said HIPPY USA Executive Director Lia Lent in an interview following the speech. Lent indicated the program has proven results and experience that it works. Nationwide, HIPPY includes 135 Sites in 21 States and the District of Columbia. “I was thrilled that Hillary Clinton called for an expansion of HIPPY around the country,” Lent also expressed that she really wants to see the Mississippi site to expand as well as other small HIPPY sites.
Clinton’s and Lent’s expansion comments pleased Community Students Learning Center (CSLC) HIPPY Coordinator Lula Friar. Based in Lexington, Miss., CSLC-HIPPY was originally established through the center’s Mississippi Parent Information Resource Center (MS PIRC) and is the only site in the state. “Having our program expanded would be a great investment to the state,” Friar said. “It would be investing in our children’s future as well as involving our parents in their child’s education which is so important to our state.”
Such an investment is paying off for D.C. mother Erica Black and her daughter Taylor, who were recognized at the dinner. Taylor, a fifth-grader, reads at the seventh-grade level, and volunteers to help others read at the HIPPY USA Summer Camp. Her mother said the program provides the fundamentals for learning and “gives the kids confidence.”
The children are not the only ones who build confidence. “When a parent sees how a child responds, that parent begins to look for more education opportunities; that parent really feels like she is making a contribution that counts,” said Clinton. She stressed that “early childhood education from the cradle to Kindergarten works.”
According to research postings from the HIPPYUSA.org website, “every dollar invested in our children through HIPPY yields $1.80 in benefits within two years of children graduating from the program.
Others reacting to Clinton’s speech included Colleen Plair, MSW, HIPPY Coordinator from Dallas. “I was delighted to hear Mrs. Clinton address the 30 million word gap, a study which indicated that children from low income families hear 30 million fewer words than children from high income families by the age of four (Hart & Risely, 2004),” said Plair. “I speak to my home instructors and HIPPY parents about this subject quite frequently.”
Clinton said she and her family at the Clinton Foundation are working hard to help close that gap and she urged the HIPPY audience to do the same.
For more information about the CSLC-HIPPY, contact Lula Friar at (662) 834-0905. For more information about the national program, visit HIPPYUSA.org.