Jessica Cejnar / Friday, Aug. 30 @ 6:43 p.m. / Community, Education

Early Childhood Educators Make Big Push On Literacy Initiative Ahead Of Next Year's Kindergarten Class


Jordyn Cole reads to youngsters in the Family Resource Center's Pre-K University over the summer. Early childhood educators begin a big push on a literacy initiative ahead of next year's kindergarten class. Photo: Jessica Cejnar

 Kids may have just started school Monday, but Angela Glore, Lindy Holloway and others on the School Systems Implementation Team are already thinking of next year’s kindergartners.

For the last nearly four years, the School Systems Implementation Team has worked with parents, daycare providers and preschoolers to promote the idea of kindergarten readiness. The team’s ultimate goal is for every Del Norte County third-grader to be reading at grade level by 2023. Since those youngsters will start kindergarten next fall, Glore, executive director of First 5 Del Norte, said she and her teammates have big plans this year.

 “There are pushes to solidify things that have already been done and using them to scale,” she said, adding that this year will also include evaluating goals and refining existing data. “There are things we tried on a small scale that we’ll see if they’re working on a larger scale.”

3Read23 was born out of a desire to improve graduation rates and student success in Del Norte County. When the Building Healthy Communities initiative began in the early 2010s, it was decided that the ultimate goal was to take steps to make sure third-graders were reading at grade level. Glore said much of this was based on the idea that students are learning how to read until about the third-grade after which they are not taught new reading skills.

This is critical, Glore said, because if a child can’t read by the time they’re in third-grade they’re behind in every subject unless they receive intervention.

At first, the School Systems Implementation Team funded tutoring programs, Glore said, but this didn’t make much, if any, difference.
With help from Building Healthy Communities, the team interviewed 27 families and 11 educators from preschool through third-grade. They asked what the parents’ education was like and what their experience in early childhood literacy was, she said.
Glore said the team also asked parents to walk them through their day.

“We learned that families’ lives are chaotic,” she said. “Families are time-poor, and a lot of families are resource poor. They worry about housing or buying clothes or buying food. Parents don’t know what kindergarten readiness is. Kindergartners are now expected to do what first- or second-graders were expected to do 20 to 30 years ago.”

When asked what they thought kindergarten readiness was, Glore said, most parents described youngsters knowing their ABCs and other academic skills. But, she said, it’s more important for kids to build their social-emotional skills before entering kindergarten. These are skills such as knowing how to share and take turns, how to calm themselves down and how to make friends.

“Educators (said) if we have a child that’s socially and emotionally ready, we can teach them the alphabet and how to count,” Glore told the Wild Rivers Outpost. “Kids were not coming with friendship skills, emotional skills. It’s very difficult to do academic (work). What we saw is if we wanted to influence third-grade reading scores, we have to support families knowing how to support development before kids got to school.”

One of the main tools early childhood educators use to assess a young child's development is the Kindergarten Screening Tool. Developed in Humboldt County in 2012, this determines the level of their social and emotional, mathematics, language and literacy skills. The assessment also asks youngsters to draw a self portrait and determines whether they’re left-handed or right-handed and how they hold a pencil.

According to Holloway, early childhood instructional coach for Del Norte Unified School District, up until two year ago teachers had been giving their students the readiness test about a month into the school year. When the district changed the format, having students take the test at the district office from people they’d never met before, scores dropped, she said.

“They were testing them in the middle of summer in a strange building with strange people,” Holloway said. “This year, they’re taking it back to the kindergarten (class) and waiting until the second week of school. That way they’re able to get to know the child. We’re curious to see what the results are going to be.”

Holloway works with Del Norte County preschools, including local Head Start and state preschool providers, on how to facilitate social and emotional development in their students. She said her position was just created in January. There are currently 24 preschool sites she works with varying in size with some having 15 to 18 students in the classroom.

“The research has shown, if kids are ready to sit, attend to a story, problem solve, they’re more academically ready to be in kindergarten,” Holloway said. “I’m getting preschool teachers to focus on dealing with emotion, self-regulation, (getting students) more prepared to sit through the rigors of kindergarten and be able to learn.”

Using a program developed by the enter on the Social Emotional Foundations in Early Learning called the Teaching Pyramid, Holloway said she visits the classroom to offer support, finding out what’s working for preschool teachers and what they may need help with.

Seven preschool sites did the Teaching Pyramid last year, Holloway said. This year more preschools will be trained using the Teaching Pyramid.

Holloway noted that it’s the first time preschool teachers have received this type of training. It helps them understand how important their job is, she said. It also allows them to collaborate with their colleagues at the kindergarten level, Holloway said.

“I think they’re a little more confident in their job and they’re more eager to learn new things,” Holloway said of the teachers she works with. “It’s been really good.”

According to Glore, the Del Norte Child Care Council is also focusing on providing Teaching Pyramid training to home-based daycare providers. She said nearly 100 teachers and daycare providers have been trained in the Teaching Pyramid program.

They have also sent local people to be trained to teach the program to their colleagues.

“In the next two to five years we’ll have almost everybody directly providing care using this to teach social and emotional skills,” Glore said.

This year, as their target cohort prepares for kindergarten, Glore said, the School Systems Implementation Team plans to beef up public awareness. This includes letting parents know what they help their child with in the next year, including such things as a routine stable bedtime and how to get themselves ready in the morning.

The more they read to their child the better it will be, Glore said, as will getting them to interact with other youngsters. She said parents can also teach their kids how to share with others and take turns.

“Even if they haven’t been doing it until now, they’ve got a year,” she said. “A year of real preparation can make a difference.”

Local early literacy programs in Del Norte County includes the Wonder Bus, the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, the Talk Read Sing campaign and Little Free Libraries. First 5 Del Norte also partners with Sutter Coast Hospital to give board books to new parents.


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