Several major projects are currently lurking on my desk, but the fact that Teacher Appreciation Week is just around the corner in May has me thinking about the end of the school year and the importance of good K-12 teachers. Among the impressive teachers I’ve had the opportunity to work with thus far have been two area kindergarten teachers, Heather Fisher and Mary Ann Lewis, who graciously agreed to participate in Kindergarten Jumpstart.
For those who may not be in the know, Kindergarten Jumpstart is a fantastic free kindergarten readiness program that is jointly offered by the United Way, the Cape Girardeau Public Library, and the aforementioned local kindergarten teachers. During the four-week program, which is designed for parents and their children, participants learn about the skills children need to succeed in kindergarten, which include basic reading, writing, and counting skills. Failure to master these skills can make it difficult for children to close achievement gaps later on in life. Although these skills might seem very simple and unimportant, research has shown that nationwide nearly one out of three children entering kindergarten is underprepared. And so the fantastic kindergarten teachers who volunteer their time to participate in Kindergarten Jumpstart give children and their parents a preview of what the kindergarten experience will be like, assuage different sets of anxieties, and reinforce the importance of having acquired such basic skills as being able to write their names and count. Over the summer, then, parents can help their children practice these skills. When the academic year begins, children and parents alike are better-equipped to deal with the challenge of beginning school.
At this writing, our Kindergarten Jumpstart is halfway through. Under the tutelage of an experienced local kindergarten teacher, approximately ten adorable and enthusiastic pre-K children and their parents gathered together. Weeks One and Two were successful: children happily practiced writing their names, listened to stories, created puzzles, and danced, while their parents learned about strategies to help their children acquire reading and writing skills and improve their fine motor skills, as well as the importance of rhyming. At the end of the session, children and parents headed into the warm, fragrant spring evening, the children excited about going to kindergarten, their parents armed with a much clearer understanding of how to best prepare their children to succeed.