By Starla Pointer • Staff Writer • 

Families get a jump start on school

Starla Pointer / News-Register##
Teacher Anna Stahl, center, leads a Ready for Kindergarten session for babies Blaze and Anwen and their mothers, Kelly Foster, left and Melissa Jones, right. The program gives parents skills and strategies.
Starla Pointer / News-Register## Teacher Anna Stahl, center, leads a Ready for Kindergarten session for babies Blaze and Anwen and their mothers, Kelly Foster, left and Melissa Jones, right. The program gives parents skills and strategies.

Blaze, 6 months old, and Anwen, 8 months, took an immediate liking to the educational toys they received at McMinnville School District’s Ready for Kindergarten class Thursday night.

Although they won’t start kindergarten until 2023, Anwen and Blaze quickly learned some of the things they can do with a stack of soft, colorful cards attached to a ring of rattling beads. The infants shook them, chewed them, threw them down and picked them up.

As they get older, they will discover more about the simple toy — or tool, in the parlance of the Ready for Kindergarten program. They will learn the fabric cards are of different colors and have different pictures, letters and numbers printed on them.

“Show me the apple,” Anwen’s mom, Melissa Jones, may say, and the young girl will pick out the card with the picture of a red fruit.

Or Blaze’s mom, Kelly Foster, may hold up three number cards. “One, two, three,” she will say, pointing to each in turn.

Blaze will watch her mouth as she pronounces the numbers, and soon he will repeat them with her: “One, two, three!” Later, he may initiate the number game himself.

Blaze, Anwen and their mothers were among more than 100 children and parents who attended the first Ready for Kindergarten session of the school year.

The program teaches parents what to look for as their kids develop, and how to support and augment the natural learning process. It stresses the importance of reading to children, conversing with them and making everything a learning experience, from pointing out colors while waiting in line at the market to counting toys while cleaning up after a play session.

Familes visited Sue Buel Elementary School for dinner and age-group appropriate lessons — for parents of children of various ages, that is.

Many future students spent the evening in childcare rooms while their families were introduced to the program, which covers development and learning from ages 0 to 5.

Families will return for two more sessions in January and April. Some of the children will enter kindergarten in September 2019; younger ones and their parents may be back for another round of Ready for Kindergarten next fall.

This is the eighth year McMinnville has offered Ready for Kindergarten, called Jumpstart when it started in the fall of 2011. The McMinnville Rotary Club and Spirit Mountain Community Fund provided funding to start the program and buy educational materials.

The district has seen impressive results from Ready for Kindergarten, said Stephanie Legard, curriculum director.

Generally, children whose families have taken part in the program do better than their counterparts on state assessments at the start of kindergarten, she said. They recognize and know the sounds of more letters, and understand more early math concepts.

Later in the fall, when teachers assess kindergartners’ social and emotional readiness, they score better than those who haven’t been to Ready for Kindergarten or to preschool.

As the first participants are in upper elementary grades and middle school, Legard said, the district is reviewing data to see if their quick start has continued to influence their performance.

In addition to boosting children’s social, math and literacy skills, Ready for Kindergarten builds relationships between schools and families, Legard said.

Parents may not get to know the particular school their kids will attend, since the program is held at Sue Buel. But they will become acquainted with school employees and district practices long before their children start all-day kindergarten or preschool. 

Positive results have also been measured in enthusiasm of parents who have participated. Parents say Ready for Kindergarten has helped their children and strengthened the parent/child bond; many feel so strongly, they volunteer to teach sessions for other parents.

KeNan Rudzik led the session for parents of 1- to 2-year-olds Thursday night.

“There is education, learning and fun everywhere,” she noted. “Everything is a lesson. It’s all new to them.”

She urged parents to praise their children when they’re curious, pointing at objects and asking questions. From there, she said, parents can help children build “symbolic thinking” by describing an object without naming it in terms children will understand, then asking kids to point to the object or name it.

Next they can have the child do the same, describing something so parents can point it out. “That gives you a new understanding of how your child thinks,” said Rudzik, who has two boys.

“Keep it positive and encouraging,” she added.

Many parents at Thursday night’s session were new to the program.

Heather Cross came with her daughter Peyton, who attends Newby Elementary School’s preschool classes. They were required to participate, Cross said, but “I would’ve come anyway.”

She likes the idea of Ready for Kindergarten. It wasn’t available when her older children were entering school. However, she was very pleased with what they learned at Bear Hugs, the child care and preschool program at Mac High.

As for Peyton, she waved to other children, some of them her preschool classmates, as they waited for the session to begin. She chatted easily with an adult about her adventures at Newby, where she enjoys playing on the playground, learning about sharks and speaking during Show & Tell.

Kristina Young also was pleased to be able to attend with her daughter, Kairi. Kairi is in the Head Start preschool program. She likes it, the 4-year-old said.

“She’s very excited about going to kindergarten next year,” Young added.

She said they signed up for Ready for Kindergarten on the advice of friends and of Kairi’s grandmother, Kelly Shipley, a McMinnville High School teacher

Shipley, in turn, said she hopes the program will work well for her granddaughter. “I want Kairi to feel successful and be as prepared as possible,” she said.

Anwen’s mom, Jones, said she wants the same for her daughter. Her sister, who started the program with her 2-year-old last year, suggested Jones bring Anwen and her toddler sibling to Ready for Kindergarten this year.

“Of course I hope my kids will be ready,” said Jones, who has three older children.

For Blaze’s mom, Foster, the Ready for Kindergarten classroom was a familiar place.

The mother of nine has been through numerous sessions about helping her children learn. But she always learns new techniques and tools, she said.

“This program helps so much,” she said. “It teaches me where my kids should be, the developmental stuff.”

Ready for Kindergarten reminds her how important it is to read to her children and talk with them, Foster said.

Though he’s just six months old, Blaze already is a good conversationalist, she said. As if to prove her point, her son vocalized happily beside her.

“He’s saying, ‘I want this,’ ‘I want that,’” she said with a laugh.

While it’s usual to attend all three sessions each year, Stephanie Legard, curriculum director for the district, said families that missed the first session can attend the next two. They are scheduled Jan. 10 and April 4 at Sue Buel Elementary School at Davis Street and Booth Bend Road.

Another session will start next fall. For more information, call the district office, at 503-565-4000.



For more information, call the district office, at 503-565-4000.



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