The Importance of Play: Carlow Education Students Host “Family Night” for Homeless Families

April brings more than spring break and rainy weather to theregion. It’s also the Month of the Young Child aPittsburgh-only take on the Week of the Young Child, celebrated nationally April6-12, 2014.

The goal of the month-long event is to focus public attention onthe needs of young children and their families, highlightingprograms and services that meet those needs. Carlow Universitystudents and educators celebrate the importance of early learningand early literacy at a number of events throughout the city, andon Monday, April 14, Carlow undergraduate education studentswill host a Family Night for area homeless families at theAllegheny Intermediate Unit (AIU) at Pittsburgh’s Waterfront from 6to 8pm. 

Carlow undergraduate education students will encourage active, interactive play between children and parents experiencing homelessness. Photo by Tori Hirsh.

The focus of this gathering is on play, providing families withresources for encouraging play in diverse environments.Approximately 30 families and 50 children are expected at Monday’sevent, drawing attendees affiliated with four Pittsburgh-areashelters: Goodwill’s Healthy Start House (Duquesne), Center for Victims (McKeesport), Sojourner House (EastLiberty), and Womanspace East, Inc. (Uptown).

“This partnership with Carlow has been so valuable to ourprogram,” said Sarah Aglio, community liaison for TogetherTime, a program developed in conjunction with the AIU’sEducation for Children & Youth Experiencing Homelessness and the Fred Rogers Company. “This evening will offer a funnight for families experiencing homelessness to learn and playtogether, to strengthen the bond between parent and child throughfun, playful activities, and to encourage parents by modelingsimple and effective techniques to nurture and teach theirchild.”

Aglio elaborated on the importance of the AIU’s partnership withCarlow University, noting that the relationship between the twoorganizations really is symbiotic. “Students who are futureeducators never really know what school district they’ll wind upin, and regardless of where they go, there’s the chance thatthey’ll encounter students experiencing homelessness. And childrenwho are homeless can end up in any school district. It’s importantfor future teachers to know that homeless students might have acouple special needs, might require a little extra care, but in theend, kids are kids, and that they all deserve to have fun and get agood education.”

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