Reading to your child, what could be easier? And it has huge proven benefits. If you have time to do only one thing to help prepare your child for success in school and in life it is this: read to them. Fredericksburg Parent spoke with the superintendents and deputy superintendents Fredericksburg City and Spotsylvania, Caroline and Stafford Counties on the importance of early intervention, early childhood education and reading.
FREDERICKSBURG PARENT: What is the most important thing parents can do to get their children ready for kindergarten?
Mr. Benson (King George): Reading to your youngster is an excellent way to help build vocabulary in preparation for kindergarten.
Dr. Killough (Caroline): Parents need to take 30 minutes a day to read to their children. They should introduce them to libraries and other early education programs.
Dr. Benson (Stafford): Read, read and read some more.
FP: What is the biggest demographic change you've seen in the last three years in children entering kindergarten?
Dr. Baker (Spotsylvania): We've seen an increase in children living in poverty and children who are developmentally delayed. We've also seen a spike in ESOL students— both refugees and Hispanic.
Dr. Killough: The children coming from the Smart Beginnings programs have benefitted from the strong structure. These children are the leaders who model good behavior for the other children.
FP: What kind of improvements would you like to see in early childhood education that would benefit children?
Mrs. Marceline Catlett (Fredericksburg): Presently, our Head Start, Virginia Preschool Initiative and Early Childhood Special Education Programs are doing an excellent job. In Fredericksburg, we would like to be able to
provide preschool services to children starting from 0-3...similar to the Early Head Start Program in Stafford County. At this point, we do not have the resources (money, staff and facility) to service the younger children. There are a number of children in the 3 and 4 age bracket that would like to be in our program...but due to the list of limitations...we are unable to service them. At this time, our staff are previewing new federal funds
that will be available (through the grant application processes) under The President's Universal Preschool Initiative.
Dr. Killough: [Caroline County] is pushing hard to have every child on reading level by the second grade, and that involves strong early childhood programs. If you can't read you can't succeed. We hope you are all very inspired to get your child ready for kindergarten now. Whether it is a simple board book or a chapter book, take the time to read each day with your children (audio books are also a great option, and all library branches have many to choose from). Do your part to ensure their success and then join forces with Ready Freddie, and our wonderful school systems, which will partner with you come fall! No matter if your child is 6 months old or almost five, the first day of school will be here before you know it!
Mary Becelia lives with her family in southern Stafford County.
Getting Ready for Kindergarten
Check out Smart Beginnings. It's designed to make the transition to kindergarten easier for you and your budding scholar: http://www.smartbeginningsra.org/
Use the Central Rappahannock Regional Library. In addition to regular, free story times for the little ones at each branch, the CRRL website has a special section devoted to its youngest patrons, including a great
site called Day by Day VA: A Family Literacy Calendar with an activity each day to encourage your child's early grasp of reading. Even more sites for young kids are linked via CRRL here: http://www.librarypoint.org/kidsjr
May is Early Intervention Month. Contact the Rappahannock Community Services Board (RACSB) for an free early assessment of your child's readiness: http://www.racsb.state.va.us/earlyintervention.htm
Sources of Literary Engagement
Libraries! Check with your local branch for story times led by librarians and take home a bag of books to enjoy between visits.
Swap. Arrange a book swap for the books your child is tired of with friends/preschool classmates. Everyone wins with "new" free books!
Shop Discount. Thrift shops such as Goodwill have varying selections of kids' books and Riverby Books downtown has an eclectic selection of gently used books at reasonable prices.
Book Fairs. If you don't mind driving, the Green Valley Book Fair is open for a couple of weeks each month and is phenomenal for great selection and low prices (www.gvbookfair.com)
Reading Time. Have your "big" kid (if you have one) read to your "little." Great learning opportunity for both!