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BYU graduate uses Web site to help parents with their kids

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Frustrated by local professionals who told her everything her special-needs child could not do, a 1997 graduate of Brigham Young University decided to create new ways to expand information available to parents.

Stephani Raff gathered information from her early childhood education classes and added to Guid-ing Discovery, a BYU Web site that engages families worldwide in charting the development of their children."There is a lot of information available to help parents with their children, but everything I've seen so far is in huge documents," Raff said. "Most parents don't have the time or inclination to wade through masses of information.

"Making the information available on the Internet and breaking it down into smaller sections provides parents with an easy, interactive way to research," she said.

"I didn't want parents to get frustrated like I did," Raff said. "My education and personal situation provided me with the disposition to conduct research and find the answers."

Using icons such as "Emergent Writing," "Interactive Literacy," "Reading Continuum" and "Looking Forward to Kindergarten," parents can navigate through the web site and find where their children fit into the continuum of development.

The page is located under the Guiding Discovery icon at (fhss.byu.edu).

"Understanding the process of development will help parents celebrate the small accomplishments of their children along the way," said Genan Anderson, designer of the site and head teacher in the preschool program at BYU.

A faculty member at BYU since 1994, Anderson realized the need for a Web site like Guiding Discovery, which not only enables parents of BYU preschool children to use the information compiled by students each year but allows access to the information by parents world-wide.

With pictures, charts and visuals, the site is an interactive informative resource to help parents plot their children's progress, Anderson said.

For example, ideas to facilitate positive attitudes, things to look for when assessing your child's readiness for school and tips on what would be helpful for your child to know before kindergarten can be found under the "Looking Forward to Kindergarten" icon.

The "Reading Continuum" icon identifies seven stages of reading readiness ranging from a child's ability to respond to familiar voices to the ability to use print to learn.

The parents' role, selecting literature and reading ideas for parents are located under the "Interactive Literacy" icon.

The site also investigates "Emergent Writing," which identifies a writing developmental continuum and writing activities parents can do with their children to facilitate a desire to learn.

Funding for the site was given by the Center for Studies of the Family at BYU.