Jamie Wilson: Help spread the word

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During the past decade, school systems and policy makers across the country have emphasized the importance of graduating a college- and career-ready student.

Professional organizations, research centers and policy makers have spent countless hours working to identify the factors that determine if a student is ready for college or the workforce.

While the emphasis has been on the end, Habit Number 2 in Steven Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People reminds us to begin with the end in mind.

The Denton community also views early childhood education as a crucial period of a child’s education and development. It is just as important for a child to be school ready as it is for a student to be college or career ready.  In fact, research shows it is difficult to have one without the other. 

The Denton school district prides itself in providing quality pre-school programs throughout our community to engage our children in the pursuit of life-long learning.

Our board of trustees and community members are formidable advocates for pre-school educational programs.  They continuously push for stronger early childhood education funding and programming at the local, state and national levels — realizing the importance of collaborating resources to help lay a strong educational foundation for our youngest children.

However, as a community we cannot wait for outside resources to assist us in this important endeavor.

The needs assessment conducted by the United Way of Denton County in 2011 (http://www.unitedwaydenton.org/activities/community-assets-needs-assessment) further recognized the current and pending need for increasing access to quality early childhood education.

The first effort to increase such access resulted in a collaborative partnership inclusive of Denton ISD, United Way of Denton County, city of Denton and representatives from many community organizations.

The initial effort of this group is to offer a new online school readiness resource to all our Denton ISD families for those who have children 5 years old or younger in their homes.

ReadyRosie is an innovative, locally developed, online school readiness resource that will send daily e-mails to parents, grandparents, caregivers and teachers. The messages ReadyRosie has developed will include a short video of an interactive activity that can be done with young children to encourage basic learning skills.

These videos focus on literacy and math.

For example, one message will be how to expand a child’s vocabulary. Building a larger vocabulary will prepare our youngsters to start reading and writing when they start school.

Another video would build a child’s math concepts. For example, learning to count cans of food at age 3 will help children succeed when they are taught arithmetic concepts in school.

The district is now providing this service free to all families in Denton ISD with children 5 years old or younger. In order to receive the free service, families will need to register by clicking the ReadyRosie icon on our website at www.dentonisd.org. Once registered, families will begin receiving video clips in English and/or Spanish on a daily basis.

One of the goals for ReadyRosie is to engage parents and other caregivers to play a larger role in the child’s language and math development by utilizing these learning tips. Parent engagement is crucial to a child’s success in school. ReadyRosie encourages a love of learning with parents and their children.

A six-year study by Hart and Risley (1995) suggests at least half of the educational achievement gaps between economically disadvantaged students are evident by the time a child reaches kindergarten.

ReadyRosie is one effort we are implementing to help decrease these learning gaps — creating the opportunity for children in our community to be ready for school.

Children, between the ages of 3 and 5, are eager to learn and have a broad range of interests. Their curiosity is extremely high. Through this program, we hope to fulfill our children’s “inner curiosity” and help them be better prepared for kindergarten.

We need your assistance.

Please share this initiative with any families who have children 5 years old or younger, or engage in a greater role by getting involved with the early childhood coalition by contacting Gary Henderson of United Way of Denton County at gary@unitedwaydenton.org.

This is a community project — and we need your help to spread the word. It is clear that early childhood programs do make a difference (Barnett, 1998), and they are worth supporting.

Together, we can build a stronger foundation for academics, social interaction and self-esteem, for our youngest learners. The future is not something you enter, it is something we create.

JAMIE WILSON is the superintendent of the Denton school district.

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