Written by Salli Maxwell, Family Education & Support Services Program Supervisor at AzCA
Parents are children’s first and best teachers, and I have had the honor and pleasure of meeting with those who seek support in that role, having taught classes with Arizona’s Children Association’s Family Education and Support Services for the past several years. This work is funded by First Things First towards the goal of having children ready for school, and set for life.
Throughout these years, I have realized how much enthusiasm is the driving force of Kindergarten Readiness. In our Kinder Prep classes, we discuss parents’ power to mold the architecture of the brain for future learning, and we offer practical ways to make learning fun. Kindergarten teachers have long known that when children are having fun, they are more likely to participate. It follows that their level of engagement in Kindergarten predicts their entire scholastic career. Success in school is directly correlated to success in life, so it can be a lightbulb moment for parents to know when they turn on their shine—to be enthusiastic about their child’s learning—it can literally shape the world for their child.
Kindergarten teachers see the results of parents and caregivers who understand and act upon this cheerleading role before Kindergarten, and the difference between those who may not have the confidence to pour on the praise in helpful ways. Our staff come in to build upon younger parents’ confidence by offering practical things to do to support learning—while being enthusiastic about parental participation. In the Zoom world, when everyone may be muted but the teacher, this may translate to saying, “wow! I see a lot of parents engaging with their children! You look so focused together!” We model praising the effort, as that is what we want to grow!
We meet parents where they are, and this year’s adjustment to online learning has made that easier than ever for many. Instead of requiring a certain amount of people from a certain town to meet together, we are able to reach folks from across the state: all that is required is an internet connection, and ideally, hardware with a camera. We have been mailing parents incentives like books and puppets in order to keep their enthusiasm going for the program between workshops.
Parents have said, in response to the Kinder Prep classes: “I think this is great: it affirms what we are already doing, and brings in new ideas. The fun materials and parent information we received were FANTASTIC! I absolutely love all of the hands on application examples of how to weave great learning into our daily lives.”
Parents of future Kindergarteners are encouraged to meet us where we are this time, to make getting materials to you as efficient as possible. At no obligation to you, we encourage parents of 3-5 year-olds to join us for the annual Kindergarten Readiness Fair by attending our Drive-Through Backpack Pick-Up Event on January 28th from 3-6pm at 1055 Ruth Street in Prescott. Backpacks will be positively filled with some good Kindergarten supplies and ideas! Supplies are limited, but additional information and resources can be found online: www.arizonaschildren.org/kinderfair.
Aside from the upcoming Backpack Pick-Up Event in Prescott, we will also be hosting a LIVE panel of kindergarten and early education experts on January 30th from 10am-12pm. This event is held via Zoom and is open to anyone who is interested in attending—It’s not limited to the Prescott, AZ and surrounding cities. Details for registration can be found online at www.arizonaschildren.org/kinderfair. Learn more about the expert panel here. We hope you attend!