READY! helps kindergartners start, stay ahead

Kathleen Mulroy and friend read a READY! book. Toys and books are free to parents attending the classes. (Photo courtesy PANHANDLE ALLIANCE FOR EDUCATION)

SANDPOINT — What could be better than tots learning in the lap of those who love them most?

That is the essential idea behind READY! for Kindergarten. After four years of creating success for pre-schoolers, READY! launched its fifth year of free classes for parents of young children on Oct. 13.

Kathleen Mulroy, new director of READY! for Kindergarten, said she is excited that many new attendees  have signed up for the classes.

 “Word of mouth is helping to grow our program,” Mulroy said. “Happy parents are telling their friends about READY!”

One happy parent is Devyn Miller, mother of Mia, 2. She attended all three classes last year and looked forward to the class.

“It has been really, really beneficial,” Miller said. While some of what she learned is “stuff we would have done anyway,” she said the instruction and materials provide “fresh perspective.”

She described a technique for teaching Mia about curved lines and straight lines as she learns to draw letters. “I wouldn’t have thought of that,” she said.

READY! teacher Deborah McShane agrees. The October class marked her fourth year teaching parent classes. She is a former middle school teacher and now teaches at Sandpoint High School.

“I was so excited to do this,” McShane said, “because even some of the very best parents sometimes feel inadequate about preparing their child for school. READY! breaks down that barrier so parents know just what to do at each level of their child’s development.”

Panhandle Alliance for Education started the program in 2008 to meet the early childhood education needs of local families like the Millers. Since then the program has grown from 263 parents the first year to 380 last year.

The track record supports parent and teacher sentiments. Over the last four years, children whose parents attended the classes entered kindergarten at or above skills needed to succeed at school in significantly higher numbers than other youngsters. Nearly 90 percent or more of READY! students have arrived truly ready to learn, compared to 66 percent of other youngsters.

The motto of READY! could well be Start Ahead, Stay Ahead.

Education research clearly shows that students ready to start learning essential skills in kindergarten do far better throughout their school years than those who have to spend time catching up. Some never do catch up.

Also, in recent decades, exciting studies of brain development show that the earliest years of a child’s life are the peak learning years. That’s all the more reason to empower parents to be their child’s first and best teacher.

In the READY! program trained facilitators meet with parents three times a year to present a carefully researched and designed curriculum that sequences the skills according to children’s developmental characteristics.

Parents are encouraged to share their experiences with their peers, to ask questions, and to report back concerning the activities learned in the previous class.

The 90-minute classes provide information on how a child learns at each age level, along with essential tools and activities that are easy and fun.

The classes include all the tools and materials needed (toys and books that go home with the parent) are free to class participants.

Miller said the free books — mailed to READY! children each month by the Dolly Parton Imagination Library — are her daughter’s favorites on a very crowded bookshelf.

Future READY! for Kindergarten classes will be held on Saturday, Jan. 26, (winter session) and Saturday, April 13,  (spring session).

Please check the READY! website for enrollment information for these classes.

The Panhandle Alliance for Education is a nonprofit organization composed of local citizens, businesses, and educators.

Their mission is to promote excellence in education and broad-based community support for the Lake Pend Oreille School District. Donations are distributed as a working pool of money used to fund local teacher grants, a district-wide reading program, college/career guidance opportunities for high school students, and READY! For Kindergarten, an early childhood literacy program for families and a volunteer coordinator for the district. PAFE is building a permanent endowment, which is managed by the Idaho Community Foundation and the Inland Northwest Community Foundation. Local citizens are encouraged to help by making donations.

To learn more about PAFE, or to make an on-line donation, visit the website at www.panhandlealliance.com or call Marcia Wilson at 263-7040.

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