Ready to Learn
Byline: Kelsey Thalhofer The Register-Guard
Editor's note: This is the first in a series of articles about programs and individuals who benefit from United Way of Lane County, which is in the midst of its annual fall fundraising campaign.
COTTAGE GROVE - Eryn Knutson can hardly believe the change she's seen in her 6-year-old daughter over the past few months.
"It was so stressful to watch her struggle back in preschool," Knutson said of Zoey, who suffers from anxiety and recently started kindergarten at Bohemia Elementary School in Cottage Grove.
"Every day it would be, 'Do I have to go to school tomorrow?' " she said of past school years. "Now, she looks forward to it and there is no fear."
The change, Knutson said, is largely the result of a parent- child kindergarten readiness program that she and Zoey have completed over the past 12 weeks. The free summer and after-school program, called Kids in Transition to Schools, or KITS, prepares children for elementary school success by giving them a head start on the academic, social and behavioral expectations for kindergartners. It also teaches parents how to prepare their kids for success.
The program is funded in large part by United Way of Lane County, which has allocated more than $131,700 since 2010, including $47,000 in 2013.
On Monday, while parents learned about school involvement and community resources, Zoey and the other children in her 20- student classroom practiced the songs they had learned throughout the program and created mortar boards for their graduation performance and ceremony next week.
Some students still squirmed in their chairs, and others needed an extra reminder to follow directions - they're 5 and 6, after all - but each one has grown immensely over the course of the program, director Katherine Pears said.
"It's always really wonderful to see how much kids change," Pears said. "The personalities and the confidence emerge over the summer."
With the help of their instructor and two to three classroom assistants, Zoey and her classmates learned early literacy and numeracy skills and what to expect on their first day of kindergarten.
They practiced walking in a quiet line down the hall, transitioning from one activity to the next, and listening to their teacher.
They even received advice on how to ask someone to play or be their friend - and how to respond if the answer is "no."
"Without any practice, they might come into the first day of school and melt down - and that's not a good way to start for anyone," Pears said. …