Now Talk to Them: Summer Academics

What if your child lost two months of academic knowledge this summer? Summer activities can prevent that loss, but your student's parent doesn't know that. Now talk to them. You: Your Child's First Teacher parent engagement program

Many parents think that their children only develop academic skills at school. They don’t realize that if they don’t engage their children in summer learning activities, the kids will lose a significant amount of this year’s knowledge and go into the next school year at a disadvantage.

In fact, according to a 1996 study,

Most students lose about two months of grade level equivalency in mathematical computation skills over the summer months. Low-income students also lose more than two months in reading achievement, despite the fact that their middle-class peers make slight gains.

Talk to your students’ parents before the end of the school year. Send them an email or host an informal end-of-year open house in your classroom. Encourage them to purchase a math workbook and rent books from the library for their children to use over the summer. Parents need to know that these small steps can keep the students’ skills sharp for the next academic year.

Join the conversation on Twitter by using the hashtag #NowTalkToThem.

YOU: Your Child’s First Teacher Book Distribution Roll-Out Plan

YOU: Your Child's First Teacher books on a black background

By Jessica Vician

Did you know that a child only spends eight percent of his or her time in school from birth through high school graduation?

The other 92 percent of the time, the child is either at home or doing parent-approved activities.

How time is spent from birth through high school: 92% is spent at home, 8% is spent at school. Because 92% of a child's time is spent at home, parent engagement is critical. It starts with YOU.

That’s all the more reason to ensure that your students’ parents know how to practice effective parent engagement with their children so that they will perform better in school.

Giving your students’ parents the YOU: Your Child’s First Teacher book set is the first step in an effective parent engagement strategy for your school, but these parents must understand why they should read and implement the strategies presented in the books.

We recommend rolling out your parent engagement plan by presenting the books at a parent workshop, which teaches parents how to use the books, how to best communicate with the school, and how to care for their children in a way that helps them be successful in school and in life.

If you are unable to distribute the books at a parent workshop, consider these ideas to encourage parents to read and use the YOU: Your Child’s First Teacher books.

Continue reading

Now Talk to Them: Reaching Non-English Speaking Parents

Imagine a parent moving to a country where they don't know anyone, can't speak the language, and are unfamiliar with the education system. Now talk to them. YOU: Your Child's First Teacher


As educators, it can be disheartening when we try to reach out to parents, but don’t get much–if any–response back from them. In fact, at some point we may even think they don’t care to talk to us.

Spend one minute thinking about the possibility that the parent may have come from another country and is facing major obstacles in order to be a fully engaged parent in the United States. Think about how would feel if you made that same type of life change.

Now talk to them. See how your communication approach changes. Find out what resources are available in your school, district, and community to help you reach that parent and establish a more meaningful and effective partnership.

At YOU: Your Child’s First Teacher, we understand that teachers can be working with students from very diverse backgrounds and experiences. These are the kinds of conversations and strategies we have with educators in our YOU Program training workshops. We know that effective parent engagement leads to student achievement and we want to work with your school and district to show you how.

If you found this topic helpful, please share it on social media with the hashtag #NowTalkToThem. It might help other educators, too.  

How to Foster Positive Conversations About Your District on Social Media

On the keys of a keyboard, it says "Foster Positive Communication on Social Media"

By Jessica Vician

We recently implemented a YOU Program training workshop at a school district in the Midwest that has four elementary schools, one middle school, and one high school. Before the workshop, an administrator identified an issue she wanted us to address with the workshop attendees.

There is a parent-focused private Facebook group that was initially started by a mom in the district who wanted to provide a place for other parents to discuss successes and concerns in relation to their children’s education.

Unfortunately, a small group of parents have turned a well-intentioned online community into a forum for unconstructive complaints. They leave negative comments about teachers and administrators but don’t offer solutions, and the page has turned into a sour environment where other parents no longer want to participate.

This district’s problem, while unfortunate, is not unique. Online communities can quickly turn into forums of negative comments and complaints. Many people feel safe sharing opinions online that they would never say to someone in person, because the guise of being behind a computer screen and speaking with a keyboard brings courage to some.

But online communities, especially those focused on improving their children’s education experience, need not suffer just because of a few bad apples who lack the desire or ability to proactively and constructively address concerns directly with educators and/or administrators. It is possible for this Facebook group moderator to return the group to a place for positive and constructive discussion without banning the people bringing in unnecessary negativity.

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A Holistic Approach for Child Success

The comic strip image shows the success wheel, then a girl in a car. One of the tires goes flat, and the girl can't finish the race. Each tire represents one of the four core needs for child success. If one need isn't met, the child won't succeed.

By Ana Vela

We get a lot of questions from educators and parents about our YOU Program approach. In this holistic approach to child development and parenting, there are four areas for parents to address with their child: physical health, emotional well-being, social well-being, and academic success.

The YOU Program promotes helping a child with all four areas in a balanced manner. As educators, you might notice that parents tend to be great in one or two areas, but may not know how to help in the others. It’s important that all four areas are nurtured in order to contribute to a student’s academic success.

As you can see in the above illustration, if a student’s parents are not effectively nurturing one of those four areas, it will be more difficult for the student to succeed in school. That’s why it’s critical for educators and parents to learn how to work together to help each student succeed.

Boost Student Achievement Through These 5 Parental Involvement Tips

Success for every child means addressing four core needs for success: academic achievement, physical health, emotional well-being, social well-being. This is the holistic parent engagement approach of the YOU Your Child's First Teacher program.

By Jessica Vician

One of the requirements of a parent engagement program funded through Title I is to build capacity for involvement by teaching students’ parents how to help their children academically at home.

Our founder Sunny P. Chico has said that in over 35 years in the education industry, she has never met a parent who didn’t want to be a better parent. Some parents just need direction on how to help their children succeed. As an educator, you can teach them how to support their children’s classroom learning at home with these five tips.

Continue reading

Talk to Them

Think about what a parent had to go through to get their child to school on time today. Now talk to them. YOU: Your Child's First Teacher Parent Engagement Program

As educators, we have a lot to juggle in a day. So much so that we may not take the time to plan effective communication with a student’s parent.

Spend one minute thinking about what that parent had to go through to get their child to school on time. Remind yourself of your own struggles this morning.

Now talk to them. See how your communication approach changes. Your continued patience and understanding can lead to a more meaningful and effective partnership with that parent. And a better partnership means better students.

These are the kinds of conversations and strategies we have with educators in our YOU Program Training Workshop. We know that effective parent engagement leads to student achievement and we want to work with your school and district to show you how.

We’re Hiring!

YOU: Your Child's First Teacher

The YOU Program is expanding!

Are you interested in helping us forge impactful relationships between teachers and parents to help our next generation of leaders succeed?

We are seeking YOU Program facilitators to lead Training and Parent Workshops throughout the country and will be hosting a training orientation for these positions on March 11 in Chicago. If you are interested, please contact us with your résumé and note which position is of interest to you.

Join us today to make a difference tomorrow.

3 Ways to Improve Communication Between Home and School

3 Ways to Improve Communication Between Home and School | This article serves as a tool to help Title I schools learn to better communicate with their students' parents.

Effective communication between home and school is critical to student achievement. But while educators send communication to parents in the forms of emails and letters in backpacks, parents may struggle with several issues, from feeling like they’re being talked at instead of engaging in a helpful conversation to having difficulty interpreting the message.

When we speak to parents at workshops, they frequently cite that educators talk in “edu-speak,” a language full of industry terms that people outside of the education field don’t understand. It’s difficult for the parents to translate this language into actions they can take with their children to help them succeed in school. They want to be engaged but need the right resources to know how to help their children.

With these factors working against effective communication, it’s no wonder that Title I schools struggle to close the achievement gap or maximize student success. As a fully bilingual parent engagement program, we have been successful in breaking down these communication barriers between educators and parents during our YOU Program workshops. Based on our experiences, here are some communication techniques that can benefit your school’s parents.  Continue reading

In the News: New Program Helps Parents Become Teachers

In late January 2015, we visited Cartwright School District in Phoenix, Arizona to deliver a week of parent workshops to over 300 parents. Throughout the week, we heard powerful stories from parents who want the best for their children and came to learn how to be the best parents they can be.

Local news station KTVK-3TV interviewed Superintendent Dr. Jacob A. Chávez, YOU: Your Child’s First Teacher Author Sunny P. Chico, and several parents attending the workshop.

Dr. Chávez said, “We feel strongly that the advantage of having parental engagement in our schools will make a huge difference in the future.”

A parent who attended the workshop echoed the importance of the training. “The workshop really helped us think more about our children and their environment. They helped us understand the importance of a child’s physical and emotional well-being and how that relates to school and what we can do to help motivate them.”

Watch the news report here. The Arizona School Boards Association also highlighted our visit to Cartwright in their news story, “300 Parents Empowered Empowered to Become Active Partners in Their Child’s Education.”

Visit our blog regularly to learn more about how our program can help students and parents in your district, and to read success stories in districts that have already implemented our program, like Cartwright.

Parent Engagement Tips from a YOU Program Parent

Beatriz Castro's family

Photo courtesy of Beatriz Castro.

Parent Engagement Month serves as a reminder to boost our parenting efforts toward helping our children become successful, happy adults. During a recent visit to a California school district that has implemented our YOU Program, we met Beatriz Castro.

Beatriz is an extraordinary example of an engaged parent. A proud mother to her two sons, Moctezuma, 4, and Tizoc, 3, she and her husband are expecting a baby girl in December. She immigrated to the United States from Morelos, Mexico when she was 7 years old with her parents and three siblings for a better education and opportunities. While she struggled with balancing work and college herself, she has prioritized her children’s education so they will have a successful future.

When Beatriz enrolled her sons in an Early Head Start program in 2011, she took a big step toward prioritizing their education. The next year, she boosted her parent engagement efforts by getting involved with the Policy Council Committee at her Early Head Start school. During this time she learned more about the program, the financials, and the critical role parents play in a child’s education. She has brought that knowledge into her daily life with her kids and currently serves as the treasurer for the State Preschool Policy Council.

When Beatriz and her husband first planned to have children, they wanted to ensure their kids would have love, attention, communication, discipline, and an education. In her own words below, she tells us how she gives those things to her children everyday. These daily activities are a great way to bring learning into your home. Even the smallest efforts make a difference.  Continue reading

Parent Involvement vs. Parent Engagement

Parent Involvement vs Parent Engagement

By Sunny P. Chico

In April 2014, The New York Times published an opinion piece, “Parent Involvement is Overrated,” by Keith Robinson and Angel L. Harris in which they discuss the findings from their parent engagement study. The opinion piece and research study set off quite a stir that denounces parent involvement and its validity. I am not surprised by the reactions, since the headline and first few paragraphs of the opinion piece do renounce the effectiveness of parent involvement.

As an educator with over 34 years of experience, I agree with this research. Why? The study’s conclusion supports my professional and personal opinion that there is a big difference between parent involvement and parent engagement.  Continue reading

Celebrate Parent Engagement Month!


November 2014

November is National Parent Engagement Month, and we want to help you show parents some love. Here’s what you can do to celebrate this month and remember to use #EngagedParent to join the conversation:

1. FOR EDUCATORS: Invite a parent partnership by showing your love and appreciation for parents.
Download these images and change your organization’s social media profile and cover photos. To download, click on an image below and it will open a new browser window. Then right-click on the image to save it to your computer. You can then upload it to Facebook or Twitter directly from your computer.  Continue reading

7 Outcomes of Effective Parent Engagement


For a long time schools have focused their energies on parent involvement, measuring how often and how many parents show up to events and parent-teacher conferences. The higher the numbers, the more schools think they have high parent engagement. But parent involvement and parent engagement are two very different things.

An effectively engaged parent not only supports education at school, but also supports it at home. Such a parent engages in quality communication with teachers and school officials as well as with their own child. An engaged parent attends to the needs of the child while building the foundation for academic success. After all, 92 percent of a child’s life from birth through high school is spent at home while only eight percent is spent at school.

How do you know when you have effective parent engagement? Look for the following seven outcomes that are clear indicators that parents are effectively engaged at your school:  Continue reading

If you are interested in Sunny speaking at your event, please contact us.

YOU Parent Community provides community support for a child’s success.

When you purchase the program, parents receive free access to YOU Parent, which supplements the YOU Program by offering expert tips and advice to address a child’s physical, social, emotional, and academic development.

YOU Parent is a safe, ad-free place for parents to share their experiences. Accessible on any device and available 24/7, the website is a great way to keep parents engaged on an ongoing basis.

Continuing the holistic approach established in the YOU Program, the articles address the latest parenting news and techniques and provide activities to continue a child’s learning outside of the classroom. YOU Program facilitators provide continuous support even after a workshop, as they answer questions from parents on the website.

Popular articles include:

Visit in English or Spanish today.

Training Manual

YOU Program Training Manual (available in English and Spanish)

Our YOU Program Training Manual is a comprehensive instructional tool that educators can use to inspire and connect with the parent community. All three YOU: Your Child’s First Teacher books are reproduced in the manual to ensure a seamless transition between the books and the workshop.

The Training Manual includes:

  • Tools to assess current parent engagement efforts
  • Worksheets to develop lesson plans for parent events
  • Robust instructional features
  • Expanded content includes workshop activities for every topic found in the YOU books
  • A program bibliography that outlines the research-based program support

The Training Manual is included with purchase of the YOU Program Training Workshop.

Training Manual Brochure Download
Download the brochure for more information.

Training and Development

Training Workshops | Teacher Training | IL Administrators’ Academy | Parent Leadership

YOU Program Training Workshop (available in English & Spanish)

Effective parent engagement leads to better students. That’s why our professional development team provides customized training for school staff, parent liaisons, parent leaders, and school administrators on how to effectively create and maintain sustained engagement in their parent population.

This interactive, 6-hour training and professional development workshop introduces professionals to the YOU Program, the YOU Program Training Manual, and the many tools and resources included within.

Training Workshop participants become educational professionals and workshop leaders who can identify cultural needs and obstacles within different communities.

Attendees will learn to:

  • Understand the impact that effective parent engagement has on student achievement
  • Navigate the YOU Program approach, books and training manual, and online community
  • Evaluate their current parent engagement strategies and efforts
  • Help parents understand and support college & career readiness
  • Conduct engaging parent events in a variety of delivery models for parents of all backgrounds
  • Strategize sustainable parent engagement efforts

Each Training Workshop participant receives the YOU Program Training Manual, which is included with every purchase.

Training Workshop BrochureDownload

YOU Program Teacher Training Workshop

Our professional development team trains your teaching staff to establish strategies for an effective home-school partnership.

As they implement these strategies, your school will see an increase in parent involvement and improved student performance, which allow your teachers to do what they do best: teach.

This workshop is uniquely designed for staff who work with parents of students, including: teachers, social workers, counselors, and coaches. Attendees will leave the workshop equipped with the skills and tools to engage in two-way, meaningful conversations with parents.

Attendees will learn to:

  • Implement effective parent engagement strategies
  • Evaluate & continuously improve teacher-parent partnerships
  • Improve the effectiveness of parent communication
  • Create an action plan to foster ongoing & meaningful communication with parents
  • Gain an in-depth knowledge of the YOU Program through activities
  • Implement the YOU Program curriculum when working with parents of all backgrounds

YOU Program Parent Leadership Training Workshop

As organizations look to build capacity for reaching parent engagement goals, they should look to leaders in their own community—parents.

In this workshop, we build parents’ leadership skills so they can take steps to organize parent events and meetings that satisfy the organization’s goals.

All attendees will:

  • Navigate the YOU Program curriculum and training manual
  • Evaluate their current parent engagement efforts
  • Conduct effective and engaging parent meetings/events
  • Integrate effective parent engagement into their organizational structure

ISBE-Approved Illinois Administrators’ Academy Course #1709

Promoting Parent Engagement for Student Success

This ISBE-approved, 6-hour workshop guides participants to build and maintain effective parent engagement opportunities within their school communities.

During the course, participants will:

  • Review current challenges that families are facing
  • Discover current research about the impact of parent engagement on student success
  • Evaluate your school’s current efforts at parent engagement
  • Examine research-based strategies to maximize the impact of parent meetings
  • Develop a parent engagement action plan to implement the 5 strategic steps for success

Parent engagement efforts provide parents with tools to help their children succeed—no matter their socioeconomic status or their own educational background—creating a generation of students who are ready to learn and set a new highly successful norm for the American education system.

This Illinois Administrators’ Academy course is only available through an Illinois Regional Office of Education (ROE). If you are interested in this course, please contact your local ROE.

Parent Workshop

YOU Program Parent Workshop (available in English & Spanish)

Our program specialists work with your school to introduce parents to a comprehensive parenting approach that covers everything from the physical, emotional, social, and academic growth and development of their child. Coupled with learning how to use the YOU Program, these lessons establish a meaningful and effective partnership between the school and the home.

During the workshop, parents learn to:

  • Reflect on what they do well and address areas to try new strategies
  • Navigate the program approach, books, and online community
  • Understand college & career readiness
  • Communicate and partner with schools
  • Share experiences and strategies with other parents
  • Set goals for effective engagement

The YOU Program Parent Workshops help schools:

  • Discuss customized topics based on their local needs and goals
  • Connect parents to resources that benefit the student
  • Teach parents how they can support academics at home
  • Empower parents to take leadership roles in the school
  • Change parent engagement culture

Schools and organizations receive a customized workshop summary packet that includes sign-in sheets, agenda and topics covered, evaluations, and reportable metrics.

Parent Workshop BrochureDownload

Contact Us

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“We feel strongly that the advantage of having parental engagement in our schools will make a huge difference in the future. Having the parents involved in this equation in education is critical.” 

– Dr. Jacob Chavez, Cartwright School District Superintendent, Phoenix, AZ

“As a veteran teacher, I can say that this book should be a must read for all parents.”

– Kevin Rutter, 2010 Illinois Teacher of the Year

“You’re not going to get anywhere without a parent involvement piece in a high-poverty district [or] a district with an English Language Learner component…until the parents know that they have help… [The YOU Program] is responsible for a lot of our successes.” 

– Mark Skvarna, Former Baldwin Park Unified School District Superintendent, L.A. County, CA

“Excellent workshop. Needs to be implemented in all schools. First time I have seen a structured, truly holistic approach to parent engagement.”

– Dayton, OH workshop attendee

“The books were very informative, strategic, and organized. They will help manage the growth patterns of any child.” 

– Trina Carpenter, parent and YOU Program workshop attendee

“I especially like how the content was interwoven with the Common Core Standards. Parents should know what their students should know and be able to do according to these standards.”

– Kevin Rutter, 2010 Illinois Teacher of the Year

“The more parents we have involved, the better we can help the kids.”

– Dayton, OH workshop attendee

Case Study: Baldwin Park, CA

Mark Skvarna served as superintendent at Baldwin Park Unified School District in Southern California for 13 years. Under his leadership, the district was the first to implement the You: Your Child’s First Teacher program for Early Head Start, Head Start, and K-12 levels.