We are a SPARK Library!

Did you know that 1/3 of all children entering Kindergarten are already behind the other children in their class? Yesterday I had the privilege of attending a special luncheon to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Supporting Partnerships to Assure Ready Kids (SPARK) program–an intiative started to ensure children and parents are ready for Kindergarten. The program is a collaboration between schools, families and the community in nine Ohio counties and almost 40 schools! In May, the Stark County District Library partnered with the Sandy Valley School District to provide one full-time staff for the program. We were (and still are!) excited about the opportunity to help bridge the gap between home, school, and the library!

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The program is grant-funded and operated through the Early Childhood Resource Center in Stark County. It is free and open to any family of a 3 or 4 year old (depending on the nature of the program) living within the boundaries of the school where it is “based.” A parent partner visits the home of each family at least once a month to work on learning goals that range from knowing specific letters of the alphabet to using scissors correctly. It could also include social, emotional, and behavioral skills like the child dressing themselves or doing an activity independently. It is all based on several assessments the parent and parent partner complete during the initial visits.

Once the assessments are complete, the parent partners begin visiting once a month to work on a specific story and extension activities. It is essential that the parents participate as the SPARK parent partner is modeling these skills for parents to replicate on a daily basis. They begin with a story (which they will get to keep) and end with a series of extension activities that can and should be done throughout the month until the next visit. During the bulk of the lesson, they are working a variety of skills that are important for children to know prior to Kindergarten, such as literacy, counting, and fine motor skills.

SPARK’s goal is to help improve parents’ abilities to educate their children and help them become more engaged in the process as a family. It is really exciting for us as a library to be a part of this program. I have had the opportunity to sit at the table during a home visit and watch the interaction between parent and child, child and parent partner, parent partner and parent. So much of what we do at the Library is based on helping improve early literacy skills. Typically, we do this through storytimes, programming, and presentations in the community. With this partnership, we are able to expand our services and work directly with the families in our community. We are also able to directly show parents how the library can be a regular part of their routine, especially when it comes to promoting early literacy at home.

The results speak for themselves: SPARK children score higher on state testing than children who were not in the program–and these are the third and fifth grade tests–tests that occur four to six years after children leave the SPARK program. By the end of the program, most children and parents show growth in all assessments. SPARK children show significant growth in areas like story recall, letter recognition, spelling, and applied problems. For more SPARK Results, click here.

If you have a child in preschool (or preschool-aged), visit SPARK’s website for more information to see if there is a program near you and how to enroll.

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