Free school readiness program benefits kids, parents in Carbon County
Tanya Heckman, a parent educator with Carbon County Right From the Start, lays out letters and numbers as she plans lessons for LCCC SHINE Kindergarten Boot Camp. This program will teach kindergarten readiness skills to Carbon County children entering kindergarten next year. Spots are still available for their fall program, which starts Nov. 1. STACEY SOLT/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
Tanya Heckman, a parent educator with Carbon County Right From the Start, prepares a rhyming game with familiar shapes and images. Rhyming is an important pre-reading concept and a valuable skill for children to learn before kindergarten. STACEY SOLT/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
A school readiness program is being offered for Carbon County children starting kindergarten next year.
There are still spots available for the November LCCC SHINE Kindergarten Boot Camp being hosted by Carbon County Right From the Start, a “parents as teachers” organization that works with families to help prepare their children for success and make learning fun. The first session begins on Thursday, Nov. 1.
“We are hopefully helping them to get excited about going to school, giving them a little precursor of what school will be like, and helping them and their parents get off to a good start,” said Evalynn Kuehner, the supervisor of the Carbon County Right From the Start program.
“I remember with my daughter, I was always asking people what she needed to know to start kindergarten,” she added. “We didn’t have any family with kids in school, and there aren’t a lot of places out there that help families understand what these kids need to know.”
The program will be offered from 6-8 p.m. on six Thursdays in November and December at the Jim Thorpe Administration building at 410 Center Ave., Jim Thorpe. A parent or guardian must attend the program with the child. The first half of each session will include children and parents or guardians working together on skills and lessons; adults and children will then separate to give adults time to learn about being a parent of a school-age child, which comes with its own challenges and changes.
“They will learn how to be an advocate for their child in school, some basic guidance on nutrition and sleep, and how to provide a supportive learning environment. We’ll answer some of the questions they might have about the transition from a preschool child to a school-age child and how life changes,” Kuehner said.
“Meanwhile, the children will stay with a teacher who will go through different activities to enhance their appreciation for literacy, school readiness and fine motor skills. At the end of each session, they get to ‘check out’ a library book and take it home until the next week. When they bring it back, they can exchange it for another book.”
The program is also designed to build confidence in a school setting, and to help children increase their social skills in the classroom.
She noted that learning can and should be fun — and that this won’t be a boring classroom experience.
“It’s different in that it involves the parents along with the children,” Kuehner said. “They’re learning through play, and the activities that they’re involved in are very interesting to children. They’re learning through everyday activities.”
Each program will be run by trained parent educators using the Gearing Up for Kindergarten curriculum from the North Dakota State University Extension Service and Parent Resource Center. Child care for older and younger siblings will be offered by employees with state clearances.
Parent Educator Tanya Heckman has been busy preparing for the program by assembling math and science stations, table time activities, and games to help children get ready for kindergarten. One week they might be working on letter and name recognition and writing their names. Another week they will play rhyming games, because rhyming is an important pre-reading skill.
“It’s important to have fun,” she added. “That’s the basis behind Parents as Teachers — play to learn. We want to keep it fun and keep their attention.”
Children can be in preschool while attending the school-readiness program, but don’t need to be. They must simply be a Carbon County resident entering kindergarten next year.
“We’re also encouraging families who maybe didn’t qualify for Pre-K Counts, or couldn’t afford a preschool, to take advantage of this six-week session and perhaps the continued support after that,” Kuehner said.
Carbon County Right From the Start plans to offer two kindergarten readiness series, one each in the fall and spring. Parents are being encouraged to consider the fall program so that they have more time to use their new knowledge and skills to prepare for kindergarten; they can also sign up for the spring program now and work on these skills over the summer.
Families can also sign up for the Carbon County Right From the Start home visit program, which offers more school-readiness activities and support for families in their own home until a child starts kindergarten. These programs are run by the same parent educators that parents and children have met at the kindergarten readiness session.
“Parents are their child’s first and best teacher. They’re setting up the foundation for them to be able to learn. Parents are also the ones to recognize if their children need a little bit more help to start with the best skills that they can. Through programs like this, we’re able to key in on if the children are falling short of milestones, and what the parents can do to help them improve their skills,” Kuehner said. “They have time to work on these things, so that they can go into kindergarten being in the best position that they can be.”
Carbon County Right From the Start is also associated with the SHINE program, and can refer children into the kindergarten SHINE home visiting program, or the SHINE after-school program and career academy for elementary and middle school students.
“You can continue to have a support framework,” she said.
This is the second time that the organization is running a kindergarten readiness program. They last offered the program in 2011 under a different funding source, and had a tremendous response from local families.
“Parents confirmed that it helped them feel comfortable in knowing what their children needed to do in kindergarten and what they needed to do to help their children,” Kuehner said.
This year’s LCCC SHINE Kindergarten Boot Camp is being funded through a yearlong grant by United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley and administered by LCCC.
For more information or to register, call the Carbon County Right From the Start and SHINE office at 570-325-2771.