Reach Up and Learn Parenting Program

Posted in Development and Learning Early Childhood  |  Tagged , ,

by Melody Emenyonu, (GU SH ’24)

While many who choose to engage in the journey of parenthood are well prepared it is a transformative experience that presents challenges. As parents, the goal for most is to raise children into adults that are not only successful but are happy. The challenges of parenthood are only exacerbated by financial instability and this in part means parents who strive to provide the best opportunities for their children’s growth and development can struggle without the proper support. Parents are crucial to a child’s development and recognizing the vital role parents play, the Reach Up and Learn Parenting Program has emerged as a beacon of support and empowerment.

The Reach Up and Learn Parenting Program is a comprehensive initiative designed to empower parents and caregivers with the knowledge, skills, and resources they need to foster their child’s overall development. Reach Up and Learn as a program is typically targeted toward parents of young children (3 and younger). Developed by a team of child development experts, the program focuses on providing evidence-based strategies for enhancing parenting practices and strengthening parent-child relationships. By equipping parents with the necessary tools, the program aims to create nurturing environments that optimize children’s early learning experiences (Walker, 2018). The program is based on the Jamaica Home Visit (JHV) intervention designed by Sally Grantham-McGregor (McGregor & Smith, 2016). The program has been adopted by several countries to address the needs of infants and toddlers experiencing poverty, malnutrition, and developmental delays.  Bangladesh (Mehrin, 2023) and Columbia  has seen benefits to children’s development using the program Cuna Mas, a large scale program implemented by the Peruvian government based on the JMV program. Walker et al (2021) has also shown that the benefits of the program continue into adulthood. Little evidence exists on the benefits to children with specific developmental delays or disabilities, however

The program is built on a foundation of three core principles: education, engagement, and empowerment. Education involves equipping parents with a deep understanding of child development and the importance of early experiences. Engagement emphasizes the significance of active involvement in a child’s learning journey, encouraging parents to create enriching and stimulating environments. Lastly, empowerment focuses on building parents’ confidence and self-efficacy, empowering them to make informed decisions and advocate for their child’s needs. All of this is with the goal of using parents as a conduit.

The program focuses on developing strong and positive relationships with the home visitor to promote and support a parent’s skill building, self-esteem, and happiness. The home visitor is trained to listen to the parent and critically and accurately assess the relationship between caregiver and child. The use of a structured curriculum and interactive demonstrations of the appropriate activities to build skills and self-esteem for both parent and child are used to apply the core principles

The Reach Up and Learn Parenting Program offers a variety of benefits for both parents and children that go beyond self-esteem and development. Firstly, it enhances parenting skills by providing evidence-based strategies that promote positive discipline, effective communication, and problem-solving. These skills foster healthy parent-child relationships, creating a secure and nurturing bond. Moreover, the program supports early literacy and school readiness through activities that encourage language development, cognitive skills, and socio-emotional growth. By incorporating play-based learning techniques, parents learn to engage in meaningful interactions that stimulate their child’s curiosity and creativity (Wilton, 2023).

The Reach Up and Learn Program shifts the focus from caregiving to intentional and responsive parenting. This family-centered approach seeks to meet parents where they are along their parenting journey and find ways to supplement the ways they may feel less well prepared in their child-parent interactions. By equipping parents with knowledge and skills, the program empowers them to be proactive in their child’s development (Heckman, 2023). It encourages parents to be advocates for their child’s needs, fostering a sense of agency and self-advocacy. Furthermore, the program promotes the idea that learning begins at home, highlighting the crucial role parents play as their child’s first and most influential teachers. This is especially important for parents of children with disabilities who need the extra support of restructuring their interactions to suit their children unique needs/circumstances.

            In my opinion Reach Up and Learn as a Parenting Program is a great support for all parents.  By empowering parents through education, engagement, and empowerment, the program positively impacts families and communities. This can also help children with disabilities get the care they need and support parents as this is typically a situation no one can budget for. As we embrace the power of intentional and responsive parenting, we pave the way for a brighter future, where every child has the opportunity to reach their full potential.


Heckman, J. J. (2023). Jamaica Reach Up: its contribution to policy and science. Pediatrics, 151(Supplement 2).

Grantham-McGregor, S., & Smith, J. A. (2016). Extending the Jamaican early childhood development intervention. Journal of applied research on children: Informing policy for children at risk7(2), 4.

Mehrin, S. F., Salveen, N. E., Kawsir, M., Grantham‐McGregor, S., Hamadani, J. D., & Baker‐Henningham, H. (2023). Scaling‐up an early childhood parenting intervention by integrating into government health care services in rural Bangladesh: A cluster-randomized controlled trial. Child: Care, Health and Development, 49(4), 750-759.

Walker, S.P., Chang S.M., Smith J.A., Baker-Henningham H. (2021) “Jamaica Home Visit Programme.” Reach Up and Learn, Caribbean Institute for Health Research,

Walker, S.P., Chang S.M., Smith J.A., Baker-Henningham H. & The Reach Up Team. (2018) The Reach Up Early Childhood Parenting Program [PDF].

Wilton, K. S., Murphy, K. M., Mahmud, A., Azam, S., Habib, A., Ibrahim, I., … & Hamadani, J. D. (2023). Adapting Reach Up and Learn in crisis and conflict settings: an exploratory multiple case study. Pediatrics, 151(Supplement 2).