(Photo Courtesy of IU Health Starke Hospital)
KNOX, Ind.–Children in Knox received a jump start on kindergarten this summer thanks to a common goal aimed at helping at-risk kids transition successfully into school.
The Knox Community School Corporation, the United Way Starke United Fund and Indiana University Health Starke Hospital teamed up to offer Kindergarten Countdown—a program helping underserved children with the basic skills needed to succeed in kindergarten and meet Indiana educational standards later in life.
The free, four-week summer camp was held throughout June at Knox Elementary School. This was the third year Knox schools participated in Kindergarten Countdown.
Peggy Shidaker, director of curriculum/instruction for Knox schools, said the program especially connects to Knox’s current 33 percent of children who have had no preschool experience.
“All research lately has shown that children from low-income or underserved families who have not had preschool experience tend to score below their peers from higher-income families in literacy and math development as well as in social skills. They do not have the readiness skills needed and these children tend to never catch up with their peers unless there is some type of intervention, such as Kindergarten Countdown,” she said.
Shidaker added, “This was a great transitional program to help those students. At Knox, we do whatever it takes to reach out to students and their families.”
Kindergarten teacher, Kim Ray, taught students during the half-day camp four days a week. Children learned hands-on developmental readiness and activities such as how to identify their names and their letters, identify shapes, count to 25 and general book knowledge. Even basic necessities such as locating their classroom and understanding how the school day works will help create a smoother transition for students, program organizers said.
“We’ve had some really positive things happen here over the last four weeks,” Ray said. “Parents are happy that their children are socializing around other children. This will really help when they enter school in the fall.”
IU Health Starke Hospital coordinated a book drive earlier this summer, providing 320 books to Kindergarten Countdown. Each of the 18 campers received one book per day through the program.
“IU Health supports this program statewide,” said Laura Gould, community outreach coordinator for IU Health La Porte and Starke hospitals. “We understand that kindergarten is a fundamental stepping stone in the journey toward literacy and education.”
Hospital colleagues also volunteered for the program, and donated T-shirts for students to wear for the first day of school this fall. Children also received backpacks from Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health.
Shidaker, an educator for the past 35 years, found the benefits of the program too great to be measured. “When I walk into a classroom and see children naming letters or making sounds of the letters—especially since they didn’t have that knowledge before they entered the program—you can’t put that kind of progress into any kind of data.”
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