Helen Marshall urges parents to read to kids

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The crowd in the gym at the Roy Wilkins Family Center slowly moved to the pounding rhythms of African drums reverberating off the walls. They were waiting for Borough President Helen Marshall’s first visit to the Jamaica community’s cultural center.

As Marshall and New York City regent Adelaide Sanford made their way through the doors of the gym last week, the drum beats became more pronounced and the crowd rose to their feet to welcome two of the borough’s most influential women.

In keeping with her lifelong effort to educate children, Marshall was chosen to give the center’s Black History Month lecture on what parents should teach their children.

“There are many different ways to teach children to learn, but you can’t cram it down their throats,” Marshall, an early childhood educator before entering politics, told the crowd Feb. 20. “Children are happy to learn. They just absorb it.”

She said as children grow older something happens along the way. She did not fault the children, parents or teachers but alluded to the fact that parents must become more involved and concerned about their children’s education.

“The education of our children begins with you,” Marshall said as she looked out upon the audience of more than 100 people ranging from children to grandparents. “I’ll give you a hint: get a children’s book. Just start reading books to your children as soon as they can sit up. Slowly they will begin to recognize the words.”

The center in Roy Wilkins Park in Jamaica is run by Solomon Goodrich and holds a number of cultural events throughout the year from concerts to Black Spectrum Theater productions. The center also houses a senior citizen group, is the future home of the African American Hall of Fame and gives art class for children during the summer.

Marshall said libraries are necessary to move along the learning process. She said parents should make the time to take their children to the library and utilize the library system because it possesses a wealth of information as well as thousands of books for children.

“Sit with them and read one book a night to your children and your child will read,” Marshall said. “Reading is fundamental. If your children can read in the first grade, they will be all right.”

Marshall said she “believes in public education,” but it is necessary for parents to play a part in the educational process. She implored parents to be pro-active in their child’s education.

“We as parents have to get in there and be involved,” Marshall said. “We have a phenomenon where parents are not showing up and playing a role or getting involved.”

Parents must reach out to their children, she said. Both of them need to help and support one another through the whole educational process.

“Parents, (you) don’t only have to watch out for yourselves, you have to watch out for your children,” Marshall said, which drew a rousing round of applause. “If you bring a child into this world, it is your responsibi­lity.”

Reach reporter Adam Kramer by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 157.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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