October Monthly Calendar

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School Readiness with SPARK

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!

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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 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.

Kindergarten Readiness Checklist

It’s Kindergarten registration time! Each year around this time, schools set aside special times to have parents and children register for Kindergarten. Sometimes there is a special program attached to the registration day. Sometimes children get a tour of the school or get to meet the teacher. Sometimes there are also health and academic screenings offered during the day.

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Regardless of what your school offers for Kindergarten registration, it is important to make sure your child is on track and ready for school. Last year, we wrote about this same subject. You can check out that post here.

The Ohio Department of Education has put together a great little checklist of social, emotional, and physical skills you and your child can work on together to help get them ready for school and ready to learn!

Book Review: BunnyBear

Today’s blog was written by one of our very own children’s storytellers: Miss Elizabeth. You’ll find Miss Elizabeth sharing stories with children of all ages as well as creating wonderful children’s programs at one of our branches. She shares her review of the book BunnyBear by Andrea J. Loney. 

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BunnyBear may be a bear on the outside, but he doesn’t act like other bears.  He loves to pick and eat strawberries, hop around, and enjoy life in a calm manner. 

Bears don’t understand him, and bunnies are afraid of him.  Bunnybear wants to be accepted by the other bunnies, but he feels left out.  One day he meets Grizzlybun, a little bunny with a lot of confidence.  She loves to stomp her paws, growl, and make sure she’s noticed.  Grizzlybun quickly teaches Bunnybear it’s best to be oneself, as long as they’re true to who they are on the inside.

You can find BunnyBear along with other great titles about acceptance and being yourself at your favorite Stark County District Library! Make sure you tell your librarian how you liked the book.

Just Write About It…

Writing is a very important skill for children to master. Writing involves creativity, comprehension, fine motor skills, sometimes the ability to follow directions, reading, and so much more. Writing is one of the five early literacy practices helping prepare children for school.

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Here is a simple activity you can do with your child to incorporate writing into your day.

  • Supplies:
    • Paper
    • Crayons, Markers, or other item for coloring
    • Pencil
    • A favorite book

For my example, we read the story Orange Bear Apple Pear by Emily Gravett. It is a simple story with four words: orange, bear, apple, pear. The author uses the words in fun ways through her illustrations.

Image result for orange bear apple pearAfter we read the story, I asked my group of children to think of four words. They could use any four words. When they had a little trouble thinking of words, I asked them to name their favorite color, fruit, and animal.

We moved to the table. I gave them each a large piece of paper, and I told them to use their four words to write a story and draw a picture to go with it.

The most important part of this activity was letting the children be creative and work on their own. The hardest part of this activity was letting the children be creative and work on their own. Yes, you read that correctly. As adults, we have a tendency to want to make our children’s work perfect or help them the entire way. For this project, it’s important to let them figure it out on their own. Let them sound out the words and “kid spell.” Let them draw an animal the way they “see” it.

We did this with a mixture of age groups from 3 to 8 years old.

This mixes a little bit of process art (letting them create on their own) with a little bit of product art (there’s a specific end result with a few instructions). You will be surprised what your child comes up with!