Click the image for a printable version.
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.
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.
Here is a simple activity you can do with your child to incorporate writing into your day.
- Crayons, Markers, or other item for coloring
- 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.
After 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!
Try this the next time your child wants to color or paint.
Find a table or chair low to the ground. Something that is only two or three feet off the ground. Cut a paper grocery bag open or use a large piece of paper. Tape the paper to the under side of the table.
Show your child a book about the artist Michelangelo. Show him a picture of the ceiling at the Sistine Chapel. Explain how it took Michelangelo four years to paint it and he did the ceiling work while he was on his back. Ask your child how it might feel like to do something like that.
Now you will need to find some classical music. I like using soundtracks to movies. Something like Fantasia or Harry Potter. Have your child slide under the table on his back. Let him color or paint to the sound of the music on the paper. The music will help create a peaceful atmosphere and keep your child coloring longer.
Take a few minutes to color with your child. Talk about what you are drawing. You may need to use a pillow for your child’s head or back.
Depending on your child’s teacher, school, or school district, he might be using DRA (Developmental Reading Assessment), AR (Accelerated Reader), Lexile, Guided Reading, etc…there are a number of ways to level books which can make labeling books and creating lists somewhat tricky. If you recall from this post last week, it is hard for a public library to label its books with so many different leveled reading programs.
One of our favorite resources to use at the Stark County District Library is the NoveList Plus database. (Click the link, and then scroll to the N section for NoveList Plus.)
You can use this database to search for read alike books to popular children’s and teens’ titles. You can also search by Grade level, Lexile, and/or Accelerated Reading level.
Here are some other ways you can find books that fit the needs of students.
- Here is a chart from Scholastic that is helpful in determining grade level and DRA level. This also helps tie together Scholastic-leveled books with the DRA levels.
- This chart is useful for AR (ATOS), DRA, and Lexile. This website also has some definitions and bulleted lists that describe how the books grow with children as they develop.
- For Accelerated Reader levels, you can search by reading level or book title using this website:
- If you are just looking for Lexile levels, you can use this website:
It’s important to keep this fact in mind as you search: Just because your child is in a specific grade level, does not mean he/she reads at that grade level. These reading systems are intended to help students find books within their reading levels.
It’s also important to remember children need to be able to find books that interest them. They are more likely to read the book and retain the information if it is something they have chosen and want to read. It is also important to note that reading with a friend, parent, or caregiver is also VERY beneficial!