March 6, 2005 — A few teenage and first-time mothers spent Saturday morning learning the importance of reading to their young children and infants.
The V.I. Institute for Teaching and Learning hosted the "Beginning with Mother Goose" program at the Curriculum Center 9 a.m. Saturday and will host another session March 12.
The program is geared toward promoting literacy by teaching parents the importance of reading to their children and providing them with free books and instructional guides with activities to accompany the books. This was the first time that the annual program targeted teenage mothers.
Karen Gutloff, executive director of the V.I. Institute, said they contacted the young mothers through the Ivanna Eudora Kean and Charlotte Amalie High schools and through the Labor Department's job training program.
Gutloff said, although many of the teen mothers seemed interested when contacted, few showed up at Saturday morning's session three of them several having canceled during the week because of work schedules and other things.
"Our goal is to really assist families, parents and especially children with their educational development," Gutloff said.
Tara Stewart and Doris Bedminister, program trainers, told the mothers the importance of reading to their infants despite the fact they may not understand what is being said to them.
"You're giving your child a huge advantage by reading to them young," Stewart said, adding by reading to their children parents stimulate the child's interests for books and learning.
Stewart said parents must read with a purpose, asking their youngsters questions to help them understand themes and other concepts.
Bedminister told the mothers babies may not be able to read, but "they need books."
"Books motivate children," Bedminister, who owns Busy Bees Daycare, said. "A child that is not read to is a sad little child."
Stewart, Bedminister and several other trainers took turns reading through some of the books with the parents, showing them how subtle voice inflections and movements can stimulate children into learning.
One 2-year-old, T'niqua Joseph, who was present with her 19-year-old mom, Paula Telemaque, showed obvious interest while Bedminister animatedly read "Where's Spot?"
T'nique shouted "No!" when Bedminister asked "Is Spot under the bed?"
Other books given to the parents Saturday included: "Caps For Sale," "Mary Had A Little Lamb," and "Goodnight Moon."
The "Beginning with Mother Goose" program was originally launched by the Vermont Center for the Book. Linda Creque, former education commissioner, initiated the local program in 1994 when she founded the V.I. Institute for Teaching and Learning.
Besides the free books provided, mothers are also given a tape with children's songs and nursery rhymes.
In February, the institute also hosted "Especially for Dads," a program geared towards teaching the same concepts to fathers. Gutloff said 12 men participated in the program. Other Mother Goose programs include "You can Count on Mother Goose," a math-based program teaching children to count through reading; and "Mother Goose Asks Why," a science-based program.
"The point of the Mother Goose program is to stimulate cognitive development in young children," Gutloff said. "Since 1994, we've trained hundreds of parents on how to read more effectively to their kids."
Gutloff said the program was made possible through a grant from the Feuerzeig Family, housed under the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands.
"I'm really grateful to the Feuerzeigs for their support of this early literacy initiative," Gutloff said.
Tanisha Roberts, 16 and mother of a 4-month-old son, said the program was interesting.
"I learned a lot," Roberts said, adding she planned on doing some of what she learned with her baby.
"It was really helpful for teen-age mothers like myself. It shows you how to read to your kids."
Share your reaction to this story with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.