When Maricela Romero became a mother, she wanted her daughter Emily to have a better childhood experience than the one she remembered. But it wasn’t until Emily was a preschooler that Romero discovered a support system that would change her life and how she interacts with her children. “I never received love or affection from my parents so it was hard for me to be affectionate,” Romero said. “When I was growing up, my education was based on spankings, yelling and punishment.” Romero learned ways to support her young children with a stable, nurturing environment through parent education classes at the Thrive to Five Family Resource Center at Wood Elementary School in Tempe, which is funded by First Things First. The parenting classes at the center taught Romero typical child development milestones and techniques parents can use to redirect their young children toward good behavior choices. “It was so powerful when I learned the importance of connecting with my daughter before I correct and educate her,” Romero said. “I was not raised like that.”
Romero learned tips on making reading fun for Emily. Things like sitting close together when reading, and using a soft and inviting voice as well as asking her daughter questions about the story. “I learned a lot of important information, but the most important one was how to raise my kids with love, respect, and without physical abuse.” Today, Emily is in third grade and is an avid reader.
She proudly displays her book collection – mostly centered on the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. Romero recounts Emily’s routine when the family goes shopping at Costco. “As soon as we get there, Emily goes to the book section and picks out a book to read while the rest of the family shops,” she said. “Reading is her favorite thing to do.” She credits the center for helping her daughter be successful once she entered school. “Thrive to Five is the best,” Romero said. “It’s changed my life and my daughter’s.”