In the Golden Plains and Firebaugh-Las Deltas Unified School Districts, parents are spending more time reading to their children and fostering the imaginations of young minds. However, this wasn’t the case just a few years ago.

U.C. Davis’ Center for Transnational Health identified a need for a culturally-nuanced family education program after conducting a community-based research project. Conducted in 2014, this project asked parents in both school districts about what challenges they experienced in their attempts to engage in their children’s education. Participant responses indicated that parents in both districts felt disconnected from the school system and were unsure how to go about supplementing their child’s education with additional engagement at home.

With a grant from the Central Valley Community Foundation, U.C. Davis established the Puente Cultural program to engage parents in both districts. The goal of the program is to work with parents to develop the skills, knowledge, and resources needed to make informed decisions as effective educational advocates for kids in grade levels K-3. In addition, Puente Cultural teaches the Families In Schools’ Reading Roads curriculum, which instructs parents on how best to support their child’s education, both at school and at home. As almost 50% of students in both school districts are classified as English Language Learners, Puente Cultural translated the curriculum to Spanish to better reach the parents and children in each region.

Puente Cultural trained four parent facilitators on the Reading Roads curriculum to prepare them to share those teachings with other parents in each school district. Once trained on the curriculum, parent facilitators held reading and parent engagement workshops to increase literacy skills such as reading aloud and reading comprehension. Each workshop was held with the goal of strengthening parents’ skills and confidence to support literacy at home and promoting interactions with schools. Both goals were successfully fulfilled through parent facilitators developing arts and crafts activities linked to stories that parents could participate at home with their children, and through university and community partners coming together to expand the efforts to close the achievement gap in the Central Valley.

The four parent facilitators of the Puente Cultural program proudly pose with their certificates. (Photo Credit: U.C. Davis)

Parents who participated in the Puente Cultural program found the lessons they learned through attending workshops to be incredibly meaningful, both for their children and for themselves. Each workshop taught parents useful new strategies for fostering early childhood reading, and among workshop participants, the amount of time each parent spent reading to their kids each day increased by 20%.

Keep reading to learn how Puente Cultural impacted both parents and children alike.

“The workshops help me learn new ways to make reading fun for my children.” – Anonymous Workshop Participant

“My children really enjoy the activities we learn here. Even my husband gets excited when I bring home a book because he knows we’re going to learn something about our culture and have fun with the activity.” – Anonymous Workshop Participant

“Before attending the workshops, I would think that just reading was all I had to do with my children, but now I know that it is more than that. I stop and ask questions to make sure my child is understanding, and I also encourage my child to think of different scenarios based on what we are reading in the story.” – Anonymous Workshop Participant

“I feel more confident that even if I am reading in Spanish, I am still contributing to my child’s education.” – Anonymous Workshop Participant

“I really liked that the workshops take our ideas and culture into consideration to teach us new ways to help our children.” – Anonymous Workshop Participant

Efforts to expand the teachings of Puente Cultural continue in both school districts. Working with parent facilitators, Puente Cultural has conducted advisory council meetings detailing the progress of past workshops, as well as attended Birth-to-Third Grade Challenge (B-3) task force meetings to share challenges and successes. Through the advisory council meetings and collaboration with B-3, Puente Cultural facilitators have been able to establish a closer working relationship with school districts and local government.

For more information on Puente Cultural and the U.C. Davis Center for Transnational Health, please visit their website.

The Central Valley Community Foundation is proud to support programs like Puente Cultural that work to close the achievement gap in the Central Valley. For more information on grants from CVCF, please visit the Grants Overview page of our website.