Study reveals HIPPY benefits

November 27, 2003, vol. 28, no. 7
By Carol Thorbes

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A second Simon Fraser University study confirms that the home instruction for parents of preschool youngsters (HIPPY) program benefits at-risk preschoolers as much as, if not more than, traditional preschooling.

Early childhood education expert Lucy LeMare's second study compared the intellectual and social development of three groups of five-year-olds from low-income families in a variety of disadvantaged circumstances.

They could be poverty, single parenthood, adjusting to a new culture, social challenges or a combination of these.

LeMare (left) assessed the readiness to learn of 24 children in three comparable groups (matched in age, sex, ethnicity and background).

One group had gone through centre-based preschooling, another had no preschool experience, and the third had gone through HIPPY Vancouver, based at Britannia community services centre.

LeMare evaluated the children at the end of kindergarten.

As in her first study involving similar but smaller groups of children (assessed at the beginning of kindergarten), LeMare found that the HIPPY preschoolers did as well academically as the children with centre-based preschooling.

In some cases, HIPPY preschoolers did better. The HIPPY preschoolers also equalled or outperformed the comparable groups in other areas.

“As in the first study, I was surprised to see HIPPY children outperform centre-based pre-schoolers in emotional and social skills because of the greater opportunity to learn through socializing in an institutional environment,” says LeMare. “I think HIPPY's fostering of relations between parents and their children has something to do with these children developing social skills.”

LeMare says the replication of her first study's results with a larger group of students is of practical significance, and fuels her conviction that a variety of preschool programs should be sustained for at-risk families.

“I have seen firsthand some of the circumstances that prevent disadvantaged families from enrolling their children in centre-based preschools,” says LeMare. “Refugee parents can be extremely wary of public institutions. Aboriginal families often cannot overcome the negative history of residential schools. Single parents may be ashamed of exposing their social or economic difficulties in community oriented, centre-based preschools.”

LeMare is also studying the impact of another initiative.

Launched in March by a consortium of five Lower Mainland aboriginal bands, it is bringing HIPPY to aboriginal communities.

LeMare is evaluating the appropriateness of HIPPY's internationally based philosophy, teaching methods and materials for an aboriginal setting.

This $100,000 study is one of 10 funded by a Social Sciences and Humanities Council major collaborative initiative to advance research on early childhood education in different types of communities.

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