To prepare more kids for kindergarten, Parker Unified partnered with First Things First, PBS Arizona, and ASU to create a free summer transition program.
Many kindergartners come to school without the skills they need to be ready to learn. Rural Parker, Arizona, is no exception. Because of the rural area and high poverty, few students had access to high quality early learning settings and didn’t know how to behave in a classroom. Many hadn’t ever held a book in their hands and didn’t have any familiarity with letters.
For educators in Parker Unified School District (PUSD), this put a strain on teaching. It also meant that many students were behind in their learning. To prepare more youth for kindergarten, PUSD partnered with First Things First to create a free educational opportunity for pre-kindergarten youth.
By working with Arizona State University and Arizona PBS, PUSD supported the implementation of the Summer Transition to Kindergarten program. The curriculum uses the characters from the popular PBS KIDS animated show, “Super Why!” With classes for local youth aged 3 and 4, the class is especially focused on literacy.
The highly qualified teachers are able to help students learn their letters. Using rhyming, songs and even crafts, students are better able to internalize the learning. The families even get free books to continue learning in the home.
And it’s not just for youth. The program also engages with parents. While students are getting excited about books, parents are in another classroom. They’re learning how to support their own child’s learning through games and songs. Instruction also covers how a child’s brain develops and the importance of early education.
Today in Arizona, fewer than half of third graders are proficient in English language arts. The Arizona Education Progress Meter goal to increase this to 72 percent won’t be possible without quality early learning programs like this one. While it’s still relatively new, parents are excited about how their children are changing and teachers can see marked improvement. In the first two years, the program will have served close to 30 families, with impact trickling down to other children in the house.
Providing a way for parents and children to learn together is a valuable bonding experience. It’s helping more students be ready for kindergarten, which will set them on a path to success.
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