State education program helps parents teach their children, prepare them for kindergarten

Ashley Jonesin and her daughter Ava are taking part in HIPPY, which stands for the Home Instructions for the Parents of Pre-School Youngsters.

"I believe that school starts at home," Jonesin said.

The statewide home-based early intervention program helps parents teach their 2- to 5-year-old children literacy and language skills.

"Academic skills, social, emotional skills, self-regulation skills, attentional skills, pre-math skills -- all of the things that we know ensure that when kids get to school they are more likely to succeed," said Dr. Tracy Payne, the state director of the program.

HIPPY uses trained coordinators and community-based home visitors who go into the home and role-play the activities with parents, who then teach their children.

"HIPPY allows the kids to build a strong foundation at home so when they go to school it's an easy transition to learning at school," Jonesin said.

The curriculum takes 20 minutes each day.

"Those first five years of life we know are very critical for establishing habits of mind, vocabulary development," Dr. Payne explained.

She says the 39-year-old program has been very successful.

"HIPPY children were almost two times more likely to pass the kindergarten readiness screener and they were five times more likely to be promoted to the first grade on time," Payne explained.

Jonesin says the program is having a big impact on Ava.

"My daughter, she wakes up, she picks up her shapes, se picks up books. Instead of Barbie dolls and toys, she goes right to the learning stuff." 

HIPPY is state-funded, except in Hillsborough County where they are funded by the Children's Board of Hillsborough County. 

LINK: For more information, visit the program's website: