Center Helps Families Kick Off School Year with Jeans Giveaway

Sep. 27, 2012

The UT Dallas Center for Children and Families helped equip local families for the long school year ahead, giving away free jeans and expert advice during a recent event.

Faculty, staff members, and students handed out 600 pairs of jeans to families at the Grauwyler Park public library. About 300 families attended the event, which was publicized throughout a West Dallas neighborhood. Parents and children lined up outside the doors of the library before it opened.

UT Dallas senior and volunteer Edwin Hampton helped out with an event that provided free jeans for schoolchildren.

“A generous donation to the Center from the national organization Kids In Distressed Situations (KIDS) of a huge number of new children’s jeans offered a wonderful vehicle for reaching out to families at the beginning of the school year,” said Dr. Margaret Owen, director of the Center and the Robinson Family Endowed Professor. “We used the giveaway of the jeans to draw families to a back-to-school event at their local library, where we shared many good ideas for helping their children do well in school.”

The families took home up to two pairs of jeans per child and heard a series of brief presentations. One talk stressed the importance of establishing healthy daily routines both before and after school.

“The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that families create comfortable, effective routines which should achieve a happy compromise between the disorder and confusion that can occur without them, and the rigidity and boredom that can come with too much structure and regimentation, where children are given no choice and little flexibility,” said Lyn Neisius, director of the Center’s Infant Development Program. “If children can form good habits and develop efficient routines after school, they’re better prepared for class the next day and they tend to learn more easily.”

Working with parents at the West Dallas event were Adriana Baird, a community liaison specialist for the Center for Children and Families; and Tatiana Peredo, a doctoral student in psychological sciences.

Parents also received information about the Center’s developmental screening program, which is designed to identify children with potential learning challenges as early as possible before they enter kindergarten. They also heard ideas for what parents can do at home to help their children perform better in class. Parents left with handouts in either English or Spanish.

Several UT Dallas student volunteers were on hand at the weekend event held earlier this month to play with and read to the toddlers and school-age children in the youth section of the library.

“Most of the families who attended spoke Spanish,” Neisius said. “Very few, in fact, spoke only English. Families thanked us for sharing the information because they said things were different in the countries they grew up in, and sometimes they don’t know what to do to help their children succeed in school. They were also very happy to get new clothes for their children for the upcoming change of season.”

The event also offered a prime opportunity to spread the word about the Center for Children and Families’ other programs and projects.

  • As part of the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, the Center runs a weekly program for parents and children at the Bachman Lake library branch in northwest Dallas. It features activities, educational seminars and special events, with the goal of encouraging school readiness and teaching parents how to support development through play. The program, Juega Conmigo (Play with Me), provided free shoes to dozens of needy families through another KIDS donation last spring.
  • The Center will host an event in November for teen parents to improve their skills in dealing with the challenges of raising children. Staff members expect to distribute new pajamas to families that attend and a child car seat has been donated as a door prize.
  • The Center’s annual public forum, which focuses on school readiness this year, is slated for Oct. 3 and 4. Visit the Center’s website for more information.

Media Contact: Emily Martinez, UT Dallas, (214) 905-3049, emily.martinez@utdallas.edu
or the Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, newscenter@utdallas.edu
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