The Right Tools (Story #3 of 5) – Kindergarten Readiness Series
As with any home improvement project, once you have detailed instructions and the right material, the next step is just as critical to success. The right tools for the job. That is exactly where the Kindergarten Readiness Collaborative found itself after the DeKalb County Kindergarten Readiness Study was completed.
The Study found the children in DeKalb County that are five years and younger are living with increasingly adverse experiences including larger numbers of children living in poverty and homelessness, fewer children with health insurance, less capacity of child care in early care and education programs, and considerable mobility among families. All of these experiences are identified as negatively impacting kindergarten readiness and success in life.
The Collaborative was left pondering, “What next?” They needed the right tools to begin the work of bridging the gap. Tools that would assist families of the early learners.
A few months later, early learning and kindergarten educators in DeKalb County were invited to the first Early Learning Summit. Attendees shared programs and projects of interest and extended discussion from the previous Defining Kindergarten Readiness Workshop. A variety of ideas were shared during the summit including the suggestion to offer readiness toolkits across the county. The toolkits were identified as a positive way to engage young children and their families and would include resources that have been identified as core elements.
As with many good ideas, the biggest obstacle was funding for schools with little to no budget. The DeKalb County Community Foundation was quick to take action and created the Kindergarten Readiness Toolkit Grant program. All school districts in DeKalb County are eligible to apply for a toolkit grant. These grants provide toolkits to schools for distribution to incoming kindergarten students.
“As a partner of the Collaborative, the Community Foundation is proud to be part of county-wide efforts to better prepare our children for school and life success,” said Teri Spartz, Community Foundation Community Engagement Director. “Together, we are helping to give children in DeKalb County a positive start to their education journey.”
Over the last two years, 2,348 toolkits were distributed to kindergartens and pre-K programs across the county. A typical toolkit consists of items such as a white board and marker, crayons, scissors, playdoh, notebook, dice or counters, sidewalk chalk, book, flash cards, and a farm matching game from the DeKalb County Farm Bureau. School Tool Box, a locally owned business, was an instrumental partner in sourcing supplies, assembling, and storing toolkits for distribution.
So far, teachers and families are reporting a variety of benefits from the toolkits including:
According to Audrey Cook, Kindergarten Teacher at Kingston Elementary School, “One of the main objectives of the toolkits was to create a resource to assist families and better prepare students for kindergarten. With the challenge of remote teaching during the fourth quarter of school last year, the planned impact of the toolkits took on a whole new level of resourcefulness, for not only students and families, but also for myself as a teacher.”
The toolkits are awarded annually to public and private kindergarten or pre-K programs in DeKalb County. Teachers or other professionals associated with the programs can find the grant guidelines and apply for a Kindergarten Readiness Toolkit Grant online at dekalbccf.org/toolkitgrants. Donors who are interested in sponsoring toolkits for a school, $10 per toolkit, are encouraged to reach out to Teri Spartz at 815-748-5383.
Kindergarten Readiness Toolkits are one of the first tactics the Collaborative chose to initiate as part of their Kindergarten Readiness Work Plan. The evolving work plan also includes an initiative known as Basics DeKalb County. To learn more about the Basics DeKalb County, read story #4 of the Kindergarten Readiness Series.
The Community Foundation’s commitment and support to early care and education is made possible by 20 CommunityWorks Funds, generating over $100,000 in grant resources annually. These Funds support three identified interest areas; early care and education, land use, and workforce development.
If kindergarten readiness work is of interest to you or you wish to provide support for ongoing efforts, please contact Teri Spartz at 815-748-5383 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
We hope you enjoy this 5-part kindergarten readiness story series detailing the important work of addressing kindergarten readiness in DeKalb County. Story #1 provides a brief overview of the planning efforts, story #2 dives deeper into the findings of the DeKalb County Readiness Study, story #3 details the Kindergarten Readiness Toolkits Grants, story #4 brings awareness to the Basics DeKalb County Program, and story #5 takes a behind the scenes look at the additional workings of the Kindergarten Readiness Collaborative.