More than half of Colorado kids aren’t fully prepared when they enter kindergarten. The Early Childhood Council of La Plata County and local libraries want that to change.
Starting this month, the council will host readiness workshops to guide caregivers through kindergarten preparation. Each session ties in an important readiness concept and offers caregivers activities and resources. The more caregivers know, the more they can support children going into kindergarten, said Heather Hawk, executive director of ECC.
“We don’t expect every parent or adult in the community to already come equipped with the information about what school readiness looks like,” Hawk said. “So we want to provide a resource (for caregivers) to learn more about what children need to be successful.”
The ECC partnered with the Ignacio Community Library, Pine River Library in Bayfield and Durango Public Library to hold classes in each community. After each workshop, caregivers will receive an at-home resource packet modeled after current practices in local public school districts.
The free workshops focus on children, ages 3-5, who are not enrolled in preschool or do not have access to guidance and support around kindergarten readiness.
Each session will introduce families, relatives and informal caregivers to one of the six categories of kindergarten readiness: language; literacy; math; writing; social emotional development; and self-help and motor skills.
Statewide, about 51% of children did not demonstrate readiness in all six categories, according to the 2018 Colorado Department of Education report to the state Legislature. About 23% are prepared in three or fewer of the categories.
“We know that those kinds of skills translate into more success in education long term,” Hawk said. “We want to support children developing those social emotional skills that translate into perseverance, sharing, problem-solving.
Ignacio is the first town to hold a workshop, at 9:15 a.m. Wednesday. The session focuses on early language development – specifically how to build vocabulary in fun and feasible ways.
Session instructors will demonstrate songs, stories, rhymes and other activities caregivers can do to build vocabulary.
To be kindergarten-ready, a child would have a vocabulary of around 3,000 to 5,000 words, Hawk said. But building that vocabulary doesn’t necessarily require reading children’s books.
Parents and caregivers will also walk away with resources and tips, like how narrating daily activities around children can be as helpful as reading for vocabulary growth.
“We just want learning for all ages,” said Hannah Minkler, youth services specialist at Ignacio Community Library. “Learning is more than just reading ... which is why we like that this has math and STEM – a little bit of everything.”
Hawk said a child’s chance of being prepared for kindergarten increases when an adult understands readiness components.
Preschool participation is one of many factors that can impact preparedness because teachers are trained in the six readiness categories, she said.
However, about 50% of children ages 3 and 4 did not attend preschool from 2015 to 2017, according to Kids Count data. Hawk said La Plata County has a shortage of affordable child care, and families sometimes turn to informal care as a result.
While the state grapples with preschool programming, the ECC’s kindergarten readiness workshops are designed to support informal caregivers through the readiness process.
“We do feel that it’s important for families to have access to these types of educational programs, so that they can be aware of what the transition to kindergarten will look like,” Hawk said.