Education A National Roundup

Obituary: Founder of Early-Language-Skills Program Dies

By Ann Bradley — June 14, 2005 1 min read

Phyllis Levenstein, who started a national program that encourages parents to foster their children’s early language skills, died on May 28 in Rome. She was 88 and had pneumonia.

The approach she developed, now known as the Parent-Child Home Program, based in Manhasset, N.Y., is used in more than 150 sites in 12 states. It trains home visitors to spend time over two years with low-income families headed by parents with limited educations. Rather than directly teach parents how to work with their children, the visitors model behaviors using selected books and toys. (“Home Visiting Program Helps Toddlers Fill Learning Gaps,” March 6, 2002.)

A clinical psychologist, Ms. Levenstein in 1965 identified parent-child interactions as key to preparing children to enter school. She developed her program and conducted research on it for the next 40 years, finding that high-quality interaction between parents and children ages 2 and 3 promoted cognitive growth and school readiness.