No parent wants their child to start school already behind. But according to The Children’s Reading Foundation, this happens all too often.
The foundation aims to help parents avoid this with its Ready for Kindergarten workshop.
Ready for Kindergarten is program that local school districts and organizations can adopt and offer to the public.
While the program is now offered nationwide, it was developed in the Tri-Cities, where the Children’s Reading Foundation started in 1996.
In Walla Walla, the school district’s Family and Community Engagement and Support department offers the program.
While the school district offers programs for children such as transitional kindergarten to boost kindergarten readiness, Ready for Kindergarten is different because it’s for parents.
“These are classes for the parents, not for the kids,” WWPS Family and Community Engagement Coordinator Pam Clayton said. “These last about an hour and a half. There are three sessions (for each age group). There’s a fall session, a winter session and a spring session.”
She said each session addresses different learning targets to focus on.
According to data from The Children’s Reading Foundation, about four out of every 10 children enter kindergarten a year or more behind.
Clayton said a lot of a child’s learning takes place at home before the age of five. She said parents can ensure children are ready for kindergarten by engaging with them at home. They just need to know how.
“We know that between the ages of birth and 5, those little brains of theirs are like sponges,” Clayton said. “We want to make sure parents are really taking advantage of that time they have at home with their child and engage in those fun activities that they do, but in a purposeful way.”
Ready for Kindergarten is based around 26 age-based skills that the Children’s Reading Foundation say children should have before starting kindergarten. The free workshop teaches parents how to develop these skills in their children and provides take-home activities to help them do so.
“Each age group has their own target skills,” Clayton said. “For the 4- to 5-year-olds, some of the learning targets include things like matching letter shapes, naming letter shapes … and counting.”
The classes have been offered by WWPS for six years. Before the pandemic, they were held in-person. COVID-19 changed that.
“Because of COVID, the program responded to the needs of families and developed e-learning,” she said. “It worked, but it will be nice to bring them back in person.”
Now, parents have an option of in-person or online learning for the class. No matter what option parents choose, Clayton hopes they come ready to play an active role in their children’s development.
“I would want parents’ takeaway from the class to be the importance to take that time with your child at home and engage and play with them,” Clayton said. “It’s such an early time in their life and you only get it once. So, to be able to play with them and also be able to use it to enhance their learning is very important.”
In-person Ready for Kindergarten workshops begin Nov. 30. Several dates and times are available by age group and are listed for parents after they register.
Parents, grandparents and caregivers of children ages birth to 5 can register online at bit.ly/rfkreg2021 or by calling 509-526-6781.