INDIAN LAKE The Town of Indian Lake Public Library is using a state Family Literacy Library Services Fund grant to establish a much-needed pre-kindergarten program.
Secured through the assistance of Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward, $36,700 in grant funding will be used to aid the community in preparing local children for entry into kindergarten. Hamilton County will join 13 other New York State counties receiving funding through the 2007/2008 and 2008/2009 school years.
The program, called Bright Beginning, held its first class on September 17, in coordination with the beginning of the school year. In addition to providing a structured educational experience for area children, the program also assists parents in understanding and establishing a role in their children's education through direct participation in the program, and regular progress reviews with program administrators.
We saw a need to provide a pre-kindergarten program that was accessible and free to all the children in the town, said Robin Jay, Curriculum Consultant, and Indian Lake Kindergarten Teacher. It was felt that the areas children needed more exposure to books, early reading, and motor skill development. We wanted to provide something that was right here in town and was available to every four year old. Its a unique collaboration between the library and the school.
Funding is administered through the library Board of Directors, with Library Director, and grants author, Nancy Berkowitz, serving as liaison between the groups.
This grant is only for two years, Jay noted. But the State is coming out with funding for universal pre-k programs that would run a five-day per week schedule, for full days. You have to meet certain criteria to be eligible, such as staffing requirements and curriculum, so this is our way of helping the school system toward meeting those requirements.
At the conclusion of the two-year grant period, the group plans to have the preliminary work complete to facilitate a smooth transition into a program fully administered by the Indian Lake School District.
Bright Beginning features a curriculum geared toward developing basic skills, and selected to complement the educational process presented by the school district. Classes are taught by Janet-Lee Wodatch, and assisted by Kenda Butterfield.
Janet-Lee is a New York State certified teacher, said Nancy Currier, Literacy Consultant, and Indian Lake School Reading Specialist. That was a significant point for us [during the grant writing process], to show that Janet-Lee had the educational background and certification necessary for the program.
Student progress will be reviewed three times through the course of the year, along with parent surveys and a feedback forum.
In addition to its structured literacy agenda, the curriculum will encompass basic math skills and provide for continued learning opportunities in the home.
Every Friday we have the parents come in for a family literacy program, and time is provided so they can check out books from the library, Wodatch said.
Parental involvement, and the reinforcement of learning at home, has multiplied the efficiency of the educational process as well.
It was a key component of the grant, Currier said. Its a family literacy program geared toward getting people back into the library and utilizing its resources.
The State has a curriculum for universal pre-k. Although we are not in that program, we use their guidelines such as having a strong math component and literacy component. We also chose to use the same literacy program as the school, but one that is geared toward pre-k education. Its also closely aligned with the State standards, which is a big reason we chose it.
We also have a five-week pre-k orientation to the school starting in April, Jay added. Indian Lake has really been ahead of its time, since weve been doing this sort of introduction for 15-20 years. Starting in April, the children come to school three days a week for a morning program. They meet their specials teachers, and participate in an orientation program designed to familiarize them with the school system.
Its been wonderful so far, Wodatch said. Just in the three weeks weve been open, we can already see the progress the children are making.
With parental, school board, library, and community support, the group looks forward to a positive and energetic school year.
Its all about the kids, concluded Jay. Theyre our future, and we have to give them everything we can by giving them the gift of our time.
For further information, contact the Indian Lake Public Library at (518) 648-5444.