District’s early literacy program boosts kindergarten readiness

First photo: The hosts of the event, from left to right, Niki Craig, Jennifer Garcia and Ashley Curry.Second photo: Children play the rhyme memory game with their parents. Cynthia Sheeley/Torrington Telegram

TORRINGTON – Early literacy interventionalists, Niki Craig, Jennifer Garcia and Ashley Curry, held an Early Literacy Parent Night on Thursday, Oct. 13 at Lincoln Elementary. As a part of the Goshen County School District’s Preschool Partnership Program, they demonstrated to parents the reading skills their children have learned in the classroom. They have been teaching phonological awareness and oral language development, with the goal of kindergarten readiness and early reading success. 

“Phonological awareness is the awareness of sound spoken in our language,” Curry said. 

“It’s a necessary skill for future reading success. Phonological awareness involves listening to sounds, syllables, and rhyming patterns in our spoken language. Oral language development helps students build background knowledge and new vocabulary. Our lessons are created with these skills at the forefront. We use read-alouds, games, movement, dancing, singing, all in our lessons to help build these skills and to have fun with our students.” 

Throughout the meeting, they demonstrated these different approaches. They read the book There was an Old Lady Who Swallowed the ABCs aloud with the children. After the book was finished, they had the young children play educational games based on the book’s theme. One game was an “initial sound recognition game” and the other was a “rhyme memory game.” These young children were excited to play the games and show off their skills. 

This early literacy program is new to the Goshen County School District this year and is the first of its kind. Currently, they have 116 students in the program from nine different preschools and daycares in the area. Before this program, the preschool system and public school district were mostly independent of each other. This program will help connect the two and improve kindergarten readiness. 

A lot of work went into planning this program last spring, including the Curriculum Director, Jeffry Fuller, writing a grant to fund it. Presently, the program is grant funded for three years. When the time comes, they hope to be able to reapply. 

The overall goal of this program is to improve kindergarten readiness and help children and parents feel more prepared before entering grade school. Additionally, by introducing these skills earlier on, teachers can detect and intervene sooner if a child is showing learning delays. 

Craig commented, “Even with the little things, these 3-, 4-, and 5-years-olds are sitting crisscross-applesauce, raising their hands, and they are starting to recognize initial sounds and figuring out what rhyming is.” 

“Parents are starting to see it,” Curry said.

Garcia added, “Our program is very specific and very structured. I think that it will make a great impact when they enter kindergarten.” 

“Kindergarten teachers aren’t going to have to start from square one. The kids that are in this program are going to have a leg up because they have already learned initial sounds, rhyming, and syllables.” Curry stated.

At this time, it is unknown if any other districts have come up with a similar type of program. Garcia commented, “We feel lucky that Goshen County is doing this. It’s something unique and cutting edge.” 

Bethany Rose from the Goshen County Library was also present at this event. She reminded everyone that the public library in Torrington is a great place to encourage early literacy for your children. They have many different programs and activities that children love. 

“Our library offers so much to our community, and it is a really, really special place. We welcome everyone.” Rose said. “We have tons of books. We have 4,000 books, from fiction, nonfiction, young adults, juvenile, and early reader books. We have a kid’s room. It’s a great area for kids to relax, pick up a book, and just enjoy themselves.”

The Goshen County Library is celebrating its 100th year in November. 

There are many different programs for children throughout the year, including the summer reading program, Monday craft days at 3:30–6 p.m., and Tuesday and Wednesday story time at 10:15-11 a.m. 

It is easy to get a library card, all you need is a photo ID and proof of residence. There are no late fees. You could even go online to their website and get the Libby App to check out electronic books. 

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