A new kindergarten-readiness program has taken root across Wayne County with local school systems and hospitals on board as key partners.
Organizers of K-Ready are actively pursuing the parents of the county’s more than 4,000 children, age 4 and younger, to encourage daily reading to their children to prepare them for school.
“Our first role is to find out where all kids between the ages of zero and 4 are,” K-Ready co-founder Rick Ahaus said. “We want to find those children, record their names, put them in a database and, as a part of that, we want them to have books for their parents or guardians or families or siblings to read to them.
“The real focus is to read to your kid every day; hopefully, 20 minutes per day,” he said. “That’s the whole focus. We have the strong belief, backed by study after study, that if that will happen, by the time your child reaches kindergarten, they will be ready.”
Reid Hospital’s medical education program has stepped up as an early partner of the initiative by distributing Rosemary Well’s book “Read to Your Bunny” to the parents of each newborn at the hospital. The hospital also distributes K-Ready-branded items and pamphlets from the Children’s Reading Foundation.
All five public school corporations also have contributed a total of about $11,000, or $1 per student, to the effort, and the Build-A-Bear Workshop Bear Hugs Foundation awarded K-Ready a $2,000 grant. Those funds go toward buying books.
“We’re wanting to support anything to try to help our children be better prepared when they enter school,” Centerville-Abington Community Schools Superintendent Phil Stevenson said. “I think it’s great that Wayne County has taken it upon itself to remedy the situation. It’s sorely needed. That’s one of the reasons we are supporting it.”
Statistics show about 40 percent of Wayne County students enter kindergarten unprepared, according to the results of local assessments. In Richmond, 56 percent of students enter kindergarten unprepared, according to Richmond Community Schools' latest results of the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test.
Ahaus’ partner in the project, Vic Jose, said local statistics inspired them to take action, much like data about third-grade literacy in Richmond inspired them to create the Third Grade Academy in 2008.
“Our organization was formed to solve a problem, which is the high number of children entering kindergarten not ready to learn,” Jose said.
Since the launch of K-Ready in January, Jose and Ahaus have hired Catherine McConnaughay as the initiative’s executive director and have begun appealing to parents at local festivals to participate.
McConnaughay said more than 600 children already have been entered into a database to receive books and other information, and nearly that many books have been distributed to local families.
Additionally, 16 volunteers representing each of the county’s five public school corporations have signed on to lead local operating committees and organize events.
“We’re trying to get parents to do what they should do,” Jose said. “Our long-term goal is to change the culture so every parent reads to their child. Our immediate objective is to find the kids where this is not happening.”