UC Blue Ash professor teams with United Way to expand early learning

Education professor Helene Harte is partnering with the United Way to grow a program that helps families prepare their children for school

Helene Harte is applying her research on family engagement to help the United Way of Greater Cincinnati expand opportunities for early childhood learning.

The associate professor of education at the University of Cincinnati Blue Ash College teaches a course on "Families, Communities and Schools," and has conducted research for several years on ways to help parents begin preparing their children at an early age for success in school.

Harte began collaborating with the United Way of Greater Cincinnati in 2009 to expand the Born Learning public awareness campaign as part of its Success By 6® early childhood initiative. This partnership resulted in the development of Born Learning Academy parent workshops, which are utilized by schools across the globe. Harte’s partnership with the United Way exemplifies the inclusive excellence outlined in the university’s strategic direction, Next Lives Here.

The workshops are designed for children ages six years and younger and their families. They are offered at participating schools as a way to get children connected with their local school system before they enroll in kindergarten. The workshops provide proven tips, tools and resources that help parents understand how to spark early learning skills in their children and take a more active role in preparing them for school.

Research shows that parents often know the interactions with their children matter, but they aren’t always sure what to do. “We created a series that incorporated everyday tasks into ways families could engage children and help them prepare for school,” says Harte. “This might involve something as simple as folding the laundry and counting the number of items they are folding.”

The academy workshop series that Harte and her colleagues developed has proven to be successful in Ohio and Kentucky and has since been adopted by United Way Worldwide. The Born Learning Academies are now available in schools across more than a dozen states, as well as countries that include China and Brazil.

“Helene has been a partner with United Way’s Success By 6® initiative from the beginning,” says Leshia Lyman, vice president of Success By 6® and Area Communities for the United Way of Greater Cincinnati. “Having her expertise, guidance and willingness to try new approaches and test new ideas has provided us with the confidence to move much of the work forward, knowing it is backed by someone of Helene’s background and research.”

Harte, who is a member of the Success By 6® Regional Leadership Council, is guiding the strategic direction of the effort, which includes a priority strategy around family engagement. As part of this effort, she recently facilitated a discussion with approximately 50 partners across the region, including school leaders, families and representatives of local organizations such as Head Start and Every Child Succeeds.

“The ultimate goal is that we want to do things with families, not to families,” says Harte.

Learn more about the Born Learning Academy parent workshops and community programs.

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