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

Alison Juram D'Addieco - April 11, 2014

April brings more than spring break and rainy weather to the region. It's also the Month of the Young Child a Pittsburgh-only take on the Week of the Young Child, celebrated nationally April 6-12, 2014.

The goal of the month-long event is to focus public attention on the needs of young children and their families, highlighting programs and services that meet those needs. Carlow University students and educators celebrate the importance of early learning and early literacy at a number of events throughout the city, and on Monday, April 14, Carlow undergraduate education students will host a Family Night for area homeless families at the Allegheny Intermediate Unit (AIU) at Pittsburgh's Waterfront from 6 to 8pm. 

Carlow undergraduate education students will encourage active, interactive play between children and parents experiencing homelessness. Photo by Tori Hirsh.
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 with resources for encouraging play in diverse environments. Approximately 30 families and 50 children are expected at Monday's event, drawing attendees affiliated with four Pittsburgh-area shelters: Goodwill's Healthy Start House (Duquesne), Center for Victims (McKeesport), Sojourner House (East Liberty), and Womanspace East, Inc. (Uptown).

"This partnership with Carlow has been so valuable to our program," said Sarah Aglio, community liaison for Together Time, a program developed in conjunction with the AIU's Education for Children & Youth Experiencing Homelessness and the Fred Rogers Company. "This evening will offer a fun night for families experiencing homelessness to learn and play together, to strengthen the bond between parent and child through fun, playful activities, and to encourage parents by modeling simple and effective techniques to nurture and teach their child."

Aglio elaborated on the importance of the AIU's partnership with Carlow University, noting that the relationship between the two organizations really is symbiotic. "Students who are future educators never really know what school district they'll wind up in, and regardless of where they go, there's the chance that they'll encounter students experiencing homelessness. And children who are homeless can end up in any school district. It's important for future teachers to know that homeless students might have a couple special needs, might require a little extra care, but in the end, kids are kids, and that they all deserve to have fun and get a good education."