Learning and Growing Together

A story about Education

Six-month-old Alonso smiles a lot.

Maybe he knows he’s one lucky baby.

He’s lucky because he’s got a big brother, five-year-old Gary, who likes to read to him.

And when Gary is not reading to young Alonso, he’s reading to himself or asking his mother to read to him.

“He makes me read to him every night,” says Luc Maria, with a smile.

But she’s not complaining.  On the contrary, she is over joyed to have a son so enraptured in books and learning that he pretends he’s a teacher as he reads to his infant brother.

She credits Aunt Martha’s Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY) – a program Gary’s been involved in since age three — for her son’s love of reading.

A free community service, HIPPY promotes early childhood education and child literacy to families in Chicago Heights and Ford Heights.  Thanks to HIPPY, Gary was well-prepared to enter kindergarten.  He already had extensive coloring, painting, cutting and counting experience; he could write letters of the alphabet, recognize geometric shapes and was adept at working jigsaw puzzles.

“He had an idea of what to expect in school,” Luc Maria said.  Best of all, Gary was not timid or shy.  His interactions with fellow HIPPY participants had reinforced his social skills.

Gary’s father, Gerardo, believes that the social skills are the most valuable benefit of HIPPY.  “He gets to learn about, and learn to get along with, people from other cultures,” He said.

To look at Gary books, you’d never know that the youngster has been reading them for the past three years — there’s barely a mark on them.  That’s because he treasures them so, his mother explained.

“He knows which books are for reading only, which ones are for coloring, and which are for painting,” Luc Maria said.  His current favorite is Easy Answers to First Science Questions About Oceans.

Aunt Martha’s 2000