Inside Guillermina Galvan’s East Waco home, the family fish tank gurgles while her 3-year-old son Jersain plays with a puzzle.
Galvan sits next to her son, asking him in Spanish about the pieces. “Que color es este? Blue. Y este otro? Yellow. Y este?”
Typical scene for families with young children, but this one’s a bit different. There’s another person here with them whose goal is to teach Jersain and his mother. Her name is Ana Abad and she’s part of the Parents as Teachers program at Waco ISD. For the past year, she’s met with the Galvans every 2 weeks, bringing different activities geared towards developing Jersain’s cognitive and non-cognitive skills. She works with Jersain’s mom, introducing her to different teaching techniques.
Today’s activity: sliding objects down a ramp.
“This activity,” Abad says in Spanish to Jersain’s mom, “is going to help his cognitive development, help his thinking, reasoning and also his memory.”
Abad’s goal is to get Jersain’s mom to keep doing these exercises, even when she’s not around.
“I say you can choose things that you have at he house, choose a phone, choose keys,” Abad says. “Have him get them down the ramp and see what he does. Ask him ‘well how do you think it will go?’ Ask him those questions that are more to get him thinking, predicting what’s going to happen.”
At the end of every visit, Abad leaves behind books in Spanish and English. For Guillermina Galvan she says all of this has helped her son.
“I’ve seen him become more interested in school, in colors, in letters and numbers,” Galvan says of her son.
By next fall Jersain will be entering J.H. Hines elementary school. The school serves a predominantly African American and Hispanic population. Nearly 40 percent of families in the area live below the federal poverty line. According to research by the Economic Policy Institute, “cognitive and noncognitive skills are least developed among those with the lowest socioeconomic status.” And for English language learners, that developmental disparity is even greater.