Early Learning – Ready at Five

Ready at Five

Early Learning:On Your Mark, Get Set…Get Ready At Five

By Jacqueline V. Scott

Your child’s formal education begins from the moment you hold him or her in your arms.
That’s the driving force behind Ready At Five, a nonprofit, public/private partnership that focuses on preparing children to be ready to learn when they enter kindergarten.
According to Louise Corwin, executive director of Ready At Five located in Baltimore, the organization’s goal is to ensure that all Maryland children enter school prepared to succeed.
Six different nonprofit and state agencies are involved in the partnership—including the Maryland Business Round Table for Education, United Seniors of Maryland, The Maryland Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Maryland Committee for Children, Advocates for Children and Youth and the subcabinet for Children Youth and Families.

“We provide resources for the early childhood community—whether they are family members, child care providers, Head Start organizations, center-based child care programs, or public school-based pre-k programs,” Corwin says. “There are so many organizations at the state level and in the communities that are involved and are already working together to achieve this goal.”

That means reaching out to the parents, grandparents, caretakers and educators of these young children to ensure that they are doing a wide range of activities that stimulate their kids’ intellectual growth, she adds.
Jonathan Davis, assistant principal at Phelps Luck Elementary School in Columbia, says being involved with Ready At Five has been an eye-opening experience for him and his staff.
“It is a whole new mindset,” says Davis. “[Ready At Five] has really encouraged us to contact and create relationships with the parents of students in the community who have younger siblings and invite them to pre-k programs.”

Parents are encouraged to participate in a wide range of activities with their children to enhance their learning prior to entering school. Because parents and caretakers are the ones who primarily interact with their children, Ready At Five views them as being the key players in the success of this program.
According to Ready At Five literature, activities such as regularly reading to children, encouraging trips to the local library, asking questions that stimulate critical thinking and engaging in simple projects that develop creativity help children become successful students.
In 2003, only 52 percent of the 365,000 children under age 5 in Maryland entered school ready to learn as assessed by the Maryland Model for School Readiness, the state Department of Education’s assessment tool. Corwin notes that the organization’s goal is to increase that number to 75 percent by 2007.

Ready, or not…why?
There are many reasons why a child may not be ready to succeed when they enter kindergarten.
“We know that quality preschool programs enhance a child’s opportunities to be ready to succeed,” Corwin says. “Unfortunately, not all of Maryland’s young children participate in a preschool programs.”
Improving the statistics means getting out into the community and finding the homes with infants and preschoolers, says Corwin. That can be done by targeting certain schools, libraries and even senior centers in communities where the outcomes for school readiness need improvement. She continues, “We really rely on the people in those communities to help us make that connection.”

For example, Phelps Luck Elementary School, which receives federal assistance through Title One funding, was targeted to benefit from the partnership. According to Davis, the school became involved with the program after he was invited to attend one of its biannual symposiums last spring. Since attending the symposium, Davis says his school has begun to work on providing parents with information about how to work with their little ones to improve literacy skills.
These are the kinds of partnerships that Ready At Five encourages, Corwin says. They could involve an elementary school reaching out to parents of its future students, or a business providing information about early childhood development to their employees.

Matters of support
Funding for Ready At Five comes from grants from companies and foundations, businesses, consulting contracts, events and sales from publications.
One of those publications is the Parents Matter, a series that is distributed to parents through child care community programs, elementary schools, libraries, home visiting programs and community events. The series promotes information and activities about healthy lifestyles and the seven domains of learning, which include social and emotional growth, physical development, language and literacy skills, mathematical and scientific thinking, social studies and the arts. The most recent publication focuses on developing children’s language and literacy, Corwin says.
“We really stress that the activities outlined in these publications are not for the child to do by him or herself,” Corwin says. “They are activities that parents and their children can be doing together, and they are easy and inexpensive.”

The organization also puts out a Parent’s Tips Series that automatically emails quick tips and articles to about 400 members—including parents, libraries, health departments, businesses and child care programs. Articles can be reprinted and used in newsletters, Corwin says.
Activity cards for parents who want specific activities to do with their children can be purchased pre-printed from Ready At Five or downloaded via the organization’s website.
The cards include 42 suggested activities for infants, toddlers and preschoolers that touch upon seven domains of learning.

Kate Barnes, an early childhood consultant who has worked with Ready At Five to develop the cards, says Ready At Five “has enhanced awareness among educators and parents about how important it is for children to have certain skills when they enter school.”
For example, she says, one of the cards focuses on social skills—a critical skill for children to have prior to entering kindergarten.
“[Children] need to understand turn-taking and the importance of rules when playing with other kids,” explains Barnes.

According to Corwin, the Ready At Five activities are easy to implement, making them especially helpful for families in stressful situations. “One of the things that we have really tried to do is make all of these things simple enough so that, even if you are overwhelmed by all the other pressures in your life, you can take the time to do some of these things and reflect on the outcome,” she explains.

And most of the activities can be done at home. “We know that parents want the best for their children. But not all of them are educators and they may need that suggestion on how they can support their children,” says Corwin.
Phelps Luck Elementary School has only been involved with Ready At Five since the spring of 2003, so it is too early to collect statistical evidence that indicates its long-term effects. But Davis says that he doesn’t need to tally up numbers to see how it has already helped his school, adding, “I do know that the programs that we have had for parents of younger children has received a lot of positive feedback.” BC

For more information about Ready At Five, visit the website at . To sign up to receive or download monthly parent tips contact , or call 410-727-6290.

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