Tom Luscombe State Farm May2017

Life keeps us busy and at the end of the day if a parent counted up how many minutes their children had their complete undivided attention, they may be surprised by the sparse total. That focused one-on-one time tends to decrease as children grow, spending more time doing homework or reading independently and becoming busier themselves with extracurricular activities.
An initiative has been launched in Flossmoor and Homewood called “20 Minutes Matter!,” created by Flossmoor attorney Bob Bramlette, who has reached out to the area schools, library, and park district to spread the word. The initiative aims to encourage parents and guardians to spend at least 20 minutes per day fully engaged with their child without any outside distractions.
“Even in the midst of busy lives, you have to just put down the phone and help to enrich children’s lives,” said Bramlette. When he listened to some of the concerns during the school board elections two years ago, he decided that rather than complain, he should do something ― and he’s very passionate about this initiative. “I got more involved. I gathered some folks in the neighborhood who had kids and we started talking about it.” Bramlette is a father of three adult children, but knows the value to a community when families are highly engaged with one another.
Bramlette shared his idea with the Flossmoor village board last fall. Since then the community has gotten fully on board to support the “20 Minutes Matter!” initiative. One person he has worked closely with is Dana Dolan, who is part of the Principal’s Advisory Committee (PAC) at Western Avenue School.
“A key part of this initiative was to bring it to all the community organizations, the school districts, churches, libraries, park district and see how can we make it meaningful at each organization,” said Dolan. “Dr. Prosen, the principal and other parents and teachers on the committee, saw it and loved it and we decided to feature it in our winter newsletter. There are almost 500 kids at that school. It’s a wonderful symbol that even in the midst of our busy lives where we’re juggling work and family and life challenges, even if you only have 20 minutes that makes all the difference in the world to a child. So if you can stop everything and really focus on your child for 20 minutes a day, it’s going to really enrich them academically and build confidence.”
Some personal experiences of the PAC members were shared in the newsletter of ways to spend those 20 minutes. They included playing a board game, having conversation at the dinner table where kids are asked to share three things they did at school that day, praying together, reading, playing basketball or trying out a new recipe. Rules for parents: no phone, no iPad and no multitasking.
“My son is almost 13 and we still read with him. We’ll pick a book and read a chapter a night as a family,” said Dolan. She said that her son also enjoys reading a daily newspaper and their family engages in conversation about the articles.
Dolan said that Western Avenue School has built some programs in for all families and students that encourages them to spend time together. The school launched a “One school, One book™” program and the PTO bought the book “The Lemonade War” for each student, creating an all-school book club. Families were encouraged to read together and discuss the book at home.
Mayor Paul Braun talked about how school success makes the community more attractive. ”From the village side, the number one reason people move to Flossmoor traditionally is the schools. The elementary schools and high school district have been probably our most important partners in the village. As you know, through the recession everyone has suffered significant home value loss out here and the schools play a big part in terms of why people move here and maintaining property values,” he said.
“The village board and I have tried to have a much more collaborative approach with the school district. It’s not something the village board has any control over, but its clear that if the schools have such a big impact on the community both in property values and why people move and stay here, it makes sense to be more collaborative and see what we can do to support the schools,” said Braun. “And when this program came before the board it was the perfect type of collaborative effort we’re looking for in terms of being able to cross-promote and market and assist our schools in any way we can. The village board and I adopted this as something we really want to promote.” 
Bramlette plans to work with several community groups to continue to promote the initiative ― from the little league baseball board to the H-F Realtors Association. He also feels strongly that the initiative reach early elementary school parents so that they’re able to start the practice early and continue it throughout the child’s school career. 

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