DAYTON, Ky. -- Preschool and Head Start students in Dayton, Ky., are building their own libraries a book at a time.
The books going home with the children are part of the Book a Week program, in which Dayton Independent Schools partner with Scholastic Books to promote literacy.
“I think doing some basic fundamental things can really eliminate some literacy problems for kids down the road,” said Dayton Independent Superintendent Jay Brewer.
The district kicked off the program in November as part of a push to improve kindergarten readiness.
“We were behind in that area and really looking at solutions to get our kids ready,” Brewer said.
When the Kentucky Department of Education implemented the BRIGANCE kindergarten-readiness screener in the 2013-14 school year, only 26 percent of Dayton Independent’s kindergartners were deemed school-ready, putting the district at second-lowest in the state.
For those children who start out behind, catching up can be difficult, Brewer said.
“I think once you fall behind in anything, you really are in a point where you’re at a disadvantage, and closing that gap can be a challenge because that other group is not sitting still,” he said.
Although the district has improved in the past couple years – with 52 percent of kids kindergarten-ready last fall – district officials still recognize the need for improvement.
“We’re looking to move that forward farther with this program,” Brewer said.
The Book a Week program targets the district’s youngest learners by introducing them to a new book each week.
“We believe if kids are read to more, they’re going to read more,” Brewer said.
Preschool and Head Start teachers select the books and write their own in-class activities to familiarize the children with them throughout the week.
Students recently made snowmen faces using doughnuts, cut and decorated paper snowmen and studied rhyming after reading the book “Snowmen at Night.”
“The power of our teachers writing the activities, instead of say a third-party vendor writing the activities, is our teachers know the children better because they’re working with them all day long,” Brewer said.
After reading and learning about a book during the school week, students get to take it home to keep. The activities don’t stop at school, though. Each book has stickers on the front and back covers with suggested activities for parents to do with their children.
“It’s all built into that whole experience of sharing the book together,” said preschool teacher Tesa Clark.
The books and their related activities encourage parents to read to their children, said Lincoln Elementary Principal Greg Duty, whose son is in the preschool program.
Actively reading with parents helps develop the emotional readiness needed for kindergarten and boosts kids' vocabularies.
“Reading is going to help these kids be successful in any discipline that they do,” Duty said.
Two months into the program, Clark already has noticed a difference.
“I’ve had a lot of really good feedback from the parents, and the students are always really excited about the books now,” she said.
District officials eventually want to extend the program through kindergarten in the future, but for now Duty said he hopes for reading to become a regular habit among early learners.
“What I hope to see, really, is for reading to be something that becomes almost contagious,” he said.