ReadyRosie to help younger kids

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Free online curriculum designed to prepare children for kindergarten

The Denton school district, United Way of Denton County and a local resident who founded an online school readiness curriculum are partnering to provide a service to help ensure that children younger than 5 are prepared for kindergarten.

The school district plans to use approximately $30,000 in Title I funds to enter into an agreement with ReadyRosie, an online video-based school readiness curriculum sent to subscribers daily via e-mail.

Under the agreement, the school district is purchasing approximately 10,000 one-year subscriptions to ReadyRosie and offering them to families with children ages 5 and younger free of charge.

Families will receive video clips in both English and Spanish.

District officials estimate that between 9,000 and 11,000 children ages 5 and younger live within school boundaries.

While having a child enrolled in a Denton early childhood program is not required to register for the free subscription, families must live within the district’s attendance boundaries to be eligible.

Officials with the district, United Way and ReadyRosie are expected to meet this month to discuss the target kickoff date for the subscriptions.

The partnership was publicly introduced at a Dec. 11 school board meeting.

Mike Mattingly, assistant superintendent for curriculum, instruction and staff development, said a need for school readiness among children prior to entering kindergarten was outlined in the United Way of Denton County’s 2011 Community Assets and Needs Assessment report. The report was presented to school district and city officials at a joint meeting last spring and sparked discussions on how to meet the need.

Throughout the spring and summer months, the district studied ways to get more children in pre-kindergarten and how they might be transported.

Last fall, through the United Way, the district learned of ReadyRosie, a service founded by Emily Roden, a Denton resident and former Denton school district elementary teacher.

“We felt like it was really a perfect fit,” Mattingly said. “We’re able to reach parents easily by sending these messages to their phone or computer, if they have one. We could pretty much reach any parent that has access.”

Mattingly said many children who start kindergarten have not interacted with other children in a school setting and don’t understand what it means to get in a single-file line or take turns. A service like ReadyRosie can help prepare children for their first day of school by providing school readiness skills and laying a foundation for students to be successful in future school years, he said.

Launched last July, ReadyRosie provides a daily two-minute video to assist parents, child care workers, preschool teachers and caregivers in helping children become equipped for kindergarten, Roden said. About 80 percent of the 185 ReadyRosie videos feature Denton locales and residents teaching children basic vocabulary and math skills.

Using everyday scenarios like playtime, visiting the grocery store or riding in a car, the videos present activities for children that teach problem solving, literacy fundamentals, essential life skills and vocabulary, according to the ReadyRosie website.

Roden said video content — based on Texas pre-kindergarten guidelines — examines what children are expected to know, such as an understanding of shapes, the alphabet and sounds, upon entering kindergarten, and findings in the National Reading Panel, a report that examines the country’s state of literacy education and the fundamental literacy skills a child needs.

Roden said ReadyRosie, named after her daughter, is being used by families in the Arlington and Richardson school districts, and negotiations are under way to provide the service to families living within 10 to 12 school districts across Texas. Denton, she said, is the first district to provide ReadyRosie to every family with preschool-age children.

“That really is exciting because that’s actually the intended purpose,” she said.

The program reaches children in preschool programs as well as those with no educational experience.

Chris Shade, the district’s federal programs director, said Title I funds reserved for preschool are being used to fund the subscriptions.

“We’re excited to have an opportunity to have an outreach to help in that period of kids’ lives and help them be ready for school,” he said.

The United Way’s role in the partnership is offering volunteers to help identify families to register for the ReadyRosie subscriptions.

What the partnership does for so many families, said United Way President and CEO Gary Henderson, is to help in closing the achievement gap and preparing children for kindergarten. The program also helps beak down a transportation barrier by bringing a school readiness resource to families’ fingertips, whether they access to it via a smartphone, a home computer or a computer at a local library.

Mattingly said the district will market the program and inform families about the free subscriptions through school newsletters, allowing families to share the news with other residents who have young children. Fliers about the partnership and how individuals might register are also being printed and will be shared with local pediatricians, churches and community organizations.

People interested in registering are asked to contact Mattingly or Mary Helen Martin, the district’s director of elementary curriculum, instruction and staff development, at 940-369-0000.

BRITNEY TABOR can be reached at 940-566-6876. Her e-mail address is btabor@dentonrc.com .


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