Exploring the nature of social capital in a kindergarten program utilizing parent volunteers

Michael Brian Rutter, Fordham University


Many children entering kindergarten lack the adult support needed for social and academic success, Kindergarten children often have to share one teacher with 25 or more children. Lack of support staff remains a reality in many public kindergartens. National polls reveal that all types of families spend less time than they would like supporting the emotional and social growth of their children. Early childhood programs not actively seeking to involve parents in the daily classroom lives of their children compound the problem. The literature is clear. High levels of parent involvement in early childhood classrooms enhance the social and emotional development of young children by providing additional adult support. Yet public schools often do little to encourage regular participation by parents in classroom life. Powerful historical and systemic forces continue to compromise parent involvement programs in early childhood classrooms. What happens when parents are encouraged to participate in classroom life? The researcher/kindergarten teacher wanted to see if his volunteer program compensated in some way for the adult support some children have lost. Experiences of parent volunteers and other stakeholders provide data for this qualitative study of a kindergarten volunteering program. The researcher interviewed nine parents and one great-grandmother who volunteered in the classroom under study. Other stakeholders interviewed from the school and district housing the researcher's program included: the site school's principal, the district's superintendent, a school board member, kindergarten teachers who had worked with parent volunteers, and kindergarten children enrolled in the researcher's kindergarten. All interviews were tape recorded, transcribed, and coded. The volunteers' experiences were compared with those of the other stakeholders and the extant literature. Included are the researcher's own experiences with parent volunteering. The volunteers and other stakeholders saw volunteering as an activity that supported the emotional and social development of kindergarten children and themselves. Parent interviewees valued having a close, functional relationship with their child's teacher. Parent volunteering has discernible drawbacks for some teachers and parents. Teacher training and personality, along with administrative support, are vital to the success of parent volunteering programs.

Subject Area

School administration|Educational psychology|Preschool education|Families & family life|Personal relationships|Sociology

Recommended Citation

Rutter, Michael Brian, "Exploring the nature of social capital in a kindergarten program utilizing parent volunteers" (2000). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9960952.