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January 27, 2019

Parents and the Power of Presence

Editor’s Note: Joy Thomas Moore is the author of The Power of Presence. This post was originally published on January 27 by the Herald-Tribune Media Group.

Compared with previous generations, families are changing and facing new, unfamiliar challenges. More moms work outside the home, many parents are working longer hours or multiple jobs, and more children are being raised in single-parent households.

Today, half of all children are growing up in a single-parent home, the vast majority with single moms — causing the definition of “family” to evolve.

Unfortunately, many Americans assume that single motherhood is destroying the fabric of the family. But as my son, Wes Moore, says in the foreword of my new book, The Power of Presence, the opposite is true. Single moms are not America’s burden; they are its backbone.

While the definition of “family” may be changing, the need to have an indelible presence in our children’s lives has not. As a 32-year-old widowed mother of three, I understood immediately how challenging it would be to maintain presence. My book shares what I learned along the way.

Initially, I was hesitant to chronicle my experience. I didn’t want to position myself as an expert — I was an experimenter who learned some expertise. Successful parenting requires a recipe of trial and error, with ingredients that never change: love, patience, consistency and, overall, presence.

It wasn’t until Wes promoted his first book, The Other Wes Moore, nine years ago that I was convinced to write my own book. The questions always came up — “What did your mother do?” “How did she do it?” I was encouraged to show how parents — especially single moms — can help their kids make the right choices, even when they aren’t near them.

I also wanted to stress that parenting is a collaborative effort. It takes people coming to the table and sharing tips, insights, frustrations, and support. After considering the negative narrative surrounding single motherhood, I saw the opportunity to share my story and provide a platform for other single moms to share their own.

The Power of Presence is my love letter to single moms. Their challenges and the way that most successfully raise their children to become adults that survive and thrive is a story rarely told. They have experience, wisdom, courage — all attributes that can serve as guides for parents focused on strengthening their child.

Much of my professional career has centered around advancing equity among disadvantaged children and families. My work with the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading has affirmed my own knowledge of the vital role parents play in a child’s success.

Families are only as strong as the parents who shape them, which is why the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading recognizes the significance of parental success. Just as parents learn from one another, families — and communities — must work together to produce our next generation of great leaders.

Communities throughout North America have embraced the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading’s approach by working to help children read proficiently by the end of third grade — a key indicator of a child’s future academic success. The data shows that 67 percent of our nation’s children — and 80 percent of those from low-income families — aren’t reaching this crucial milestone, widening the achievement gap and undermining efforts to end intergenerational poverty.

Embedded in the Campaign’s work to nurture children before kindergarten is the importance of consistent school attendance and established access to quality learning opportunities in the summer months. The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading knows that successful, engaged parents are the secret sauce to their child’s success.

The Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading has exemplified this approach since 2015, growing into a community-wide effort within Charlotte, DeSoto, Manatee and Sarasota counties — an unprecedented collaboration among the Campaign’s network of more than 390 communities. It has made remarkable strides for its children, earning national recognition as one of the Campaign’s pacesetter communities.

This year, the Suncoast Campaign is piloting an exciting way to support parents — providing the national campaign with a model for doing so in other GLR communities. Through a series of community Book Circles exploring the lessons embedded in The Power of Presence, the Suncoast Campaign is harnessing the inherent power of Suncoast families.

Ever since visiting the Suncoast to see Wes speak at The Patterson Foundation’s dedication of Patriot Plaza at Sarasota National Cemetery in 2014, I have been eager to get back. This time, I am delighted to be engaging with the parents and families who make up the Suncoast at community events kicking off these Book Circles.

I’m honored that the Suncoast Campaign recognizes The Power of Presence as a valuable resource for its mission and excited to connect with the people nurturing the successful development of this community’s future leaders.

Joy Thomas Moore is a Peabody Award winner and president and CEO of JWS Media Consulting. Previously, she worked 15 years with the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which is dedicated to helping build better futures for disadvantaged children and families.

She will discuss The Power of Presence on Thursday, Jan. 31, at Bookstore1Sarasota, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and at Pine View School, from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., during events for Book Circle participants.

Visit to register for a Book Circle.

This story comes from a partnership between the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading and the Herald-Tribune, funded by The Patterson Foundation, to cover school readiness, attendance, summer learning, healthy readers and parent engagement. Read more stories at

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