About four years ago, we introduced you to a new partnership with SPARK Ohio. The SPARK (Supporting Partnerships to Assure Ready Kids) program–an initiative 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 the last five years, we have expanded our role with SPARK to include three school districts, seven parent partners, and an office space for all parent partners in four school districts. As you can probably see, we are still very excited about this partnership!
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 ranging from letter knowledge 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 parents participate as the SPARK parent partner models 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.
The results speak for themselves: SPARK children score higher on state testing than children who were not in the program–even years after they graduate the 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.
The Stark County District Library provides parent partners in the Canton City School District, Plain Local School District, and Sandy Valley Schools. This year, nearly 300 children graduated from SPARK in Canton City, Plain Local, and Sandy Valley. We are so proud of our graduates! (In Stark County, you will also find SPARK in Perry Local Schools, Canton Local Schools, Massillon City School District, Minerva School District, and Alliance City Schools.)
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.