It is amazing when a community gathers as a systemic network what can be accomplished. The Kindergarten Readiness Project, which came together last fall has built a force that is providing a stream of interventions towards meeting the need of families and children, who turn five-year olds by September 30th and will be starting school.

In writing the book, “The Story of Kennett: Shaping Our Future One Child at a Time,” authors Joan Holliday and Bob George discovered that our community offers many effective pre-school programs yet still has a gap of unmet need related to kindergarten readiness.

April Reynolds, kindergarten principal, shared the following 2017 September statistics with us:

• 49 out of 284 students came with no preschool experience.

• 161 out of 284 students reported using another language other than English spoken in the home

• 72 out of 284 students qualified for English Language Development (ELD)

These above statistics along with the spirit of our caring community were the impetus to bring agencies and programs together with the school district to engage a collective effort towards addressing this need. The network started with the motto, “Learning begins at birth; School begins at home.”

Dr. Barry Tomasetti, KCSD superintendent was interested in reaching families with children under five years of age to address parent engagement and the need for parent’s one-on-one involvement in their child’s education. The Maternal Child and Health Family Center has an evidence-based parenting program they provide for families in their homes in SCC. The network agreed that MCHC would be the perfect agency to provide parent and child education classes on Tuesday nights twelve weeks in a row at Mary D Lang Kindergarten Center. With the support of a private community funder, this intervention was accomplished this past Spring. The families who participated reported that they learned the importance of parent-child time with reading and engaging other activities. Jose Zavala the primary teacher said that he sees this intervention having a ripple effect; “The families who attended the classes will share experiences with their extended families and friends and it will continue to grow the impact.”

We also had the good fortune of meeting Michele Moll at a Bridging the Community meeting, who told us about RSVP, which has a literacy program-- Lucky the Reader. With this program already developed, the Michael and Nancy Pia Foundation provided funds for this to be brought to over 520 families through twelve different community venues. And, speaking about a ripple effect, more agencies and parents are taking their preschool classes to the Kennett Area library as a resource, and an eighth grade Unionville Girl Scout, Jessica Hall has built twelve Lending Libraries around town in local businesses. Several book drives requesting pre-school books have been held, with the most recent one being First Baptist Church.

United Way of SCC is an investor in the Kindergarten Readiness Project by providing funds for two Kindergarten Readiness Transition Camps this summer. Maternal Child Health Consortium is working in concert with Mary D Lang to provide two sessions of two weeks of kindergarten preparation for nearly eighty vulnerable students and families.

This has been a rewarding experience for everyone involved. We have gained a better appreciation of our conscientious and competent school system and have been encouraged by the many ongoing community programs along with the new offerings. Having an even playing field for all children when starting school is the goal and we will continue to aspire to “shaping our future one child at a time.”

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