Strengthening Families – Programs for Parents & Teachers

Empowering Parents to Be Their Child’s First Teacher

The Readiness Basket, a bilingual (English and Spanish) training program, is an exciting interactive parent and child learning workshop series. This has been offered in selected schools, community sites, and family resource centers in Arizona for more than 11 years.

The program is meant for parents, caregivers, and their young children aged 0 – 5. During the series of 11-14  2-hour instructional sessions, parents discuss issues vital to parenting, brain development, the importance of play, discipline techniques, and school readiness. Participants will:

  • Understand the developmental stages and the critical nature of the first five years in nurturing a child’s optimal development
  • Understand child brain development as it applies to communications (language), motor skills, reading, math as well as social and emotional development
  • Understand the importance of guided play in the development of a young child
  • Understand that developmental, sensory, and pre-reading screening is essential for checking a child’s developmental progress
  • Learn over 100 developmentally appropriate activities to nurture learning for children 0 – 5 years old
  • Prepare their children for Kindergarten using the AZ Early Education Standards
  • Gain leadership skills by conducting group conversations, teamwork, participate in the role play of presentations, and take part in developing community activities that further early childhood and literacy development

Readiness Basket - Parent Academy

This series was implemented to serve approximately 20 – 25 parents at a time. The program has handled as many as 38 registered participants in some schools in the Phoenix area. In rural areas, the number of participants may vary between 15– 25.

The Readiness Basket is a program designed especially for pregnant moms/dads, parents, childcare providers, and their children—from newborn babies to five-year-olds (60 mos). The program consists of 11-14 sessions.

Aside from the two hours of instruction, an hour before and after the workshop may be used for individual parent follow-up meetings on screening or family needs. Two facilitators will handle the session to allow for additional perspective on the day’s topic or other follow-up needs Classes can be delivered in either English, Spanish, or bilingually. Facilitators will accept participants fluent in other languages.

The program promotes the “Strengthening Families Framework” by improving the skills of parents and caregivers as the first and most important teachers of their children, while emphasizing school readiness. Aside from this, more than 100 resources will be given out over the course of the program.

What makes Readiness Basket Program different?

Staff (2) trained and certified as professional facilitators (trainers)


Facilitation Methods:

  • Preview and attention catching
  • Guided Conversation
  • Presentation
  • Play to Learn interactive child practice time
  • Reflection and feedback


Participant Objectives:

Building consistency, confidence in one’s own cultural values and practices, improving self-image, seeing self as a thinker/learner, encourages parental leadership and problem solving while nurturing the development of foundational content skills and understandings.

Staff - bilingual (Spanish/English); can accommodate speakers of other languages.

Program curricula deeply based in research emphasizing developing thinking, social, personal development skills, and that “play” is not frivolous for both parent and child.

  • Curricula methods empower parent/child interactions and advocacy
  •  Multisensory materials using all the senses include activities from handouts, books, manuals, & manipulatives – created from items found around the house.
  •  Sessions designed around functional literacy involving developing competence in foundations skills of reading, writing, and voicing ideas and opinions.
  •  Content integrates themes & activities from Arizona State Toddler and Early Childhood Standards and when possible, developmental and sensory screenings results.
  •  A menu of services can be selected that includes Readiness Basket Series Workshops, Parent Academy topical parent education classes, Developmental & Sensory Screening, Literacy Events, & Strengthening Families activities.



  • Formal or informal Pre & Post based on need

Basic Sessions and Topics

Classes may take place in a different order, and some topics are discussed for several days. Session 8: Child Development Stages, the Arizona Early Learning Standards, and the screening information will be continuously reviewed during the entire series. A referral system for case management is used when screening results or other family needs are noted in the class. Small items may come under the class support system, while others may require referrals to First Things First Resource Centers, schools, state or local agencies, Developmental screenings may be partnered with the Valley of the Sun United Way’s Family Access hub. Additional vision and hearing screenings may be partnered with other agencies or Ali grants. 

  • Session 1: Program Introduction and Brain Development
  • Session 2: Brain Development, the “Pruning” of the Brain Cells
  • Session 3: Brain Development and Play
  • Session 4: Brain Development and Language
  • Session 5: Children Learn Through Senses
  • Session 6: Children and Home Safety
  • Session 7: Parents Sometimes Need Help: Parents Networking Support
  • Session 8: Child Development Stages (ASQ As Well As Get Ready to Read Screenings for Developmental and School Readiness Are Emphasized, Often With the Use of “Real” Screening Data for the Children Involved With RB Parents)
  • Session 9: Kindergarten Transition (AZ Early Childhood and Kindergarten Standards Are Again Reviewed in This Session)
  • Session 10: Discipline Workshop, Set Limit With Love
  • Session 11: Program Evaluation and Celebration

Parent Academy Individual Classes

Menu of Selections: This is an advanced course after the Basic Readiness Basket series. If individual parent awareness classes are needed and not a series, a Menu of classes may be selected from both the Basic and Parent Academy Classes.  

  • Session 1: Use of early childhood standards; continued brain development discussions and using multiple ASQ and sensory screening information of the participant’s children; recognizing a “Real” developmental delay and need for enrichment for children showing strengths; awareness of school readiness expectations from the arizona state early childhood standards is developed
  • Session 2: More in-depth developmental discussions are continued from the readiness basket’s basic course; “are referrals needed or are the concerns from screening signs that a parent needs to work more with their child?”
  • Session 3: Language and communication discussions continued with emphasis on: “Is it a delay or difficulty adjusting from a first language Spanish to English?”
  • Session 4: “What’s normal?”: An expansion of guided play to increase parenting skills for a child’s preparation to enter kindergarten
  • Session 5: Continued awareness and skill building in parents for their child’s social and emotional development (Parents evaluate themselves and their use of discipline skills)
  • Session 6: Continued activities for literacy and math development using the arizona early learning standards and get ready to read screening tool and activities
  • Session 7: Continued activities for science development using the arizona early learning standards
  • Session 8: Continued development of child advocacy and parenting with community service

Samples of Additional Events Developed Through Both the Readiness Basic

  • Literacy Nights
  • Family Readiness
  • Community Picnics
  • Community Health Fairs and Clean-Up Days
  • Parent-Led Children Activity Days
  • Parent Bonding Celebrations

ASQ Developmental & Sensory Screening Programs for Preschools & Teacher-Professional Growth

Ali’s Developmental Screening Coordinator is a Master ASQ trainer and screener.

The Ages an Stages Questionnaires are used and meet the criteria for a first-level comprehensive developmental and monitoring program. For The ASQ-3 screening system is composed of 21 questionnaires designed to be completed by parents or other primary caregivers at any point for a child between 1 month and 60 months of age. This system can identify accurately infants or young children who are in need of further assessment to determine whether they are eligible for early intervention, early childhood special education or are more advanced and need more challenging activities to be successful in behaviors and academics upon school entrance. Each questionnaire contains 30 developmental items that are organized into five areas: Communications, Gross Motor, Fine Motor, Problem Solving, and Personal Social.

Vision & Hearing Screening

Arizona Learning Institute (Ali) provides a mobile screening team for preschools, churches, community venues, and health fairs. Ali’s screeners are Arizona State certified screeners and trainers.

The state -of- the- art SPOT Vision Screener is used as a digital method for detecting problems where it only takes a second to focus on the child’s eyes. No subjective eye chart is used. Results as comprehensive with recommendations to parents if needed.

Hearing Screenings use the state-of-the-art Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE) digital method requiring no response from a child.

Catching children early for vision and hearing difficulties are key to avoiding major behavioral and academic problems that often create much distress in families.

Arizona Learning Institute’s staff has more than 100 cumulative years in screening young children and providing professional growth training to teachers.

Programs Based on Research

Our curriculum and delivery techniques are founded on 75 years of continuing evidence-based research. These include:

  • 1 Nurturing Learning & Literacy with Non-confident Learners through the Learning Basket Approach – K. Elise Packard, Ph.D. (ICA-2003)
  • 2 Playing to Learn Is Deeply Rooted in Research: K. Elise Packard, Ph.D. (ICA-2001)
  • 3 How social contexts support and shape language development:: Parents As First Teachers; environment supports language & learning acquisition; Erika Hoff, Ph.D., Atlantic Univ.; PAFT—United Kingdom (2005)
  • 4 Children learn through play and develop a love of learning through their primary caregiver; play can be focused, intentional; NAEYC (2009).
  • 5 The first 5 years are very important in a child’s brain development (US National Institutes Child Health & Development; Sally Shaywitz, MD, Dept. of Pediatrics, Yale Univ. (2003)
  • 6 Get Ready to Read! Vocabulary, language, development of phonological sensitivity are building blocks for school readiness; Christopher Lonigan, Ph.D., Univ. FL (2001, 2009)
  • 7 Effective techniques for cultural & linguistic diversity in parenting for both English and foreign speakers; Sharon Vaughn, Ph.D., et. al., University of Texas, (2007)
  • 8 Recognition & Response: Developmental Stage Readiness & Transition to School; M. Colman, Ph.D., V. Buysee Ph.D., National Center for Learning Disabilities,( UNC-Chapel Hill, 2007)

Health and Education Support Projects for Parents and Caregivers With Children 0 – 5 Years

History, Evidenced-Based Content, and Methods

The Readiness Basket, originally the Learning Basket, is an updated Arizona program that was originally created by K. Elise Packard, Ph.D. for the Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA-USA) to help parents with children 0 – 3 years old.

The Learning Basket was used in 43 countries. In 2006, the ICA consolidated their offices delegating the delivery of programs to its broad network of trainers, associates, and partner organizations. Partners in Participation, the Valley of the Sun United Way, and  Arizona Learning Institute  continued these services and updated the program to include new and expanded readiness curriculum areas.

The program was renamed The Readiness Basket in 2006 and is offered to parents from a variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds who have children aged 0 – 5 (60 mos,). It  has been used in 75 programs at 22 Arizona sites, serving more than 1400 children. This included developing parent awareness of Arizona’s Early Childhood Toddler and Preschool Standards, partnering with the Open Doors curriculum, placing emphasis on Get Ready to Read Literacy, Ages and Stages Developmental and Sensory Screenings.

Following a two year (2016-18), Arizona State University evaluation the Readiness Basket, was found to be a strong Evidenced Informed Program. The program is currently evaluated with the University of Kansas’ Friends National Resource Center’s pre and post Strengthening Families survey tools measuring the 5 Protective Family Factors. These factors of  Family Functions/Resiliency, Social & Concrete Support, Nurturing & Attachment, and Knowledge of Parenting & Child Development give trainers information for individual support as well as overall workshop progress assessment for changes that may be needed.