PCS launches program to help prepare kindergarteners for school


By Kathleen Leese

For Miami Valley Today

PIQUA — Piqua City Schools kindergarten students will have the opportunity to get a head start on learning long before they ever enter the classroom thanks to a new initiative beginning in the district that aims to redirect children from phones and other technology to books.

Piqua Superintendent Dwayne Thompson told Piqua City Schools Board of Education members about the program at their meeting on Tuesday, May 14. The program, known as “Success Starts Here: 1000 Books Before Kindergarten,” will give children the chance to become familiar with and develop reading skills very early in their lives.

Thompson said children assessed before kindergarten in the Piqua City Schools District are largely “not ready” and do not have the skills to enter school and he added, it can “take years” to catch up once they are in the school system. He explained the school district wants to make Piqua students “more competitive with their peers.” Part of the problem is the schools do not have contact with children and their families until they are ready to enter school, so they are not able to help with any deficits prior to that time. Piqua City School officials are hoping this program will help with that issue.

One problem, Thompson said, is children are being handed phones instead of books, which can impact their ability to understand concepts of letters. He hopes this program will help young children develop a love of books and enhance their skills before they even walk through the school doors.

A program known as “Easy as 1-2-3” will be available through a partnership with Piqua Public Library. Local parents will be able to register their preschoolers by going to the library’s web page. The program will keep track of the number of books children read and both the library and the school district will be able to track the progress which will help as kindergarten approaches. Parents who want to enroll their child in “Easy As 1-2-3” can do so by going to the following link at https://piqualibrarysandbox.beanstack.org/

The 1,000 book program works through a system where a child will be introduced to their first books from birth to one year old and during that time, they will have three books read to them per week; ages 1 to 2 will read five books per week; ages 2-3 will read seven books per week; ages 3-4 will read 10 books per week and ages 4-5 will read 19 books per week. Thompson said this is “all very doable” and allows parents to work with their children by reading to them since preschoolers often “like to hear it (books) over and over.” It also allows the children to begin to recognize letters and words.

The program will incorporate rewards as the children reach their designated milestones. They will be able to get certificates, books and other prizes.

Thompson said many parents do not realize they can obtain a Piqua Public Library card for their children at birth. In addition, parents can learn about special library programs geared to young children as well as taking advantage of the summer bookmobile.

Another opportunity to help parents is the Piqua Parents as Teachers program. Parents interested in enrolling in the Piqua Parents as Teachers program can do so by going to the Piqua City Schools page and go to the link for that program and click on enroll.

Parents can also sign their children up for the Dolly Parton Imagination Library which allows parents to receive free books for their children until the age of five. Links to that program are on the Piqua Public Library web page.

All of these programs are free and open to children and their families.

Sean Ford, board president, told those present that 70% of eligible children in Miami County are enrolled in the Dolly Parton Imagination Library program currently.

Ford asked Thompson if issues with the COVID-19 pandemic created the significant problems facing preschoolers lagging behind in their skills.

Thompson said that while he does not know what role COVID has had, he believes technology such as phones is keeping children from picking up a book.

“We have had the lowest scores,” Thompson said concerning children prepared for kindergarten. “We feel like we have to do something about it.”

Thompson said it is important for young children to “Get engaged in the story. We’re going to hope this is a success.”

Those with questions can call the Piqua Board of Education office at 937-773-4321.

The writer is a regular contibutor to Miami Valley Today.

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