Solving for Delaware’s Kindergarten Readiness Equation
Whether you’ve seen us or not—chances are there’s a Delaware Readiness Team in your neck of the woods, making sure your community’s youngest citizens are as prepared as they can be for the big world that awaits them.
Delaware Readiness Teams are making a major impact up and down the state. We’re a statewide initiative of volunteer-based teams that strengthen communities and help children from birth through age eight get ready for school and life. There are 19 teams throughout Delaware consisting of more than 400 volunteers, and we have several partnerships among teams.
What do we do? That depends on the team, since each team responds to the unique needs of its community. But overall we focus on three key areas: early learning, healthy children, and successful transitions. That means we host book drives to promote early literacy development, connect families who need it with health and social supports, and encourage and educate families on kindergarten registration.
That’s only the tip of the iceberg. And in five years, we’ve accomplished a lot. By our count, we’ve hosted 25,000 children in an array of learning programs, we’ve distributed 50,000 books during literacy initiatives, and we’ve engaged over 100 families in parent conferences, community cafes, and other family-focused training. We’ve delivered thousands of resources for families with information on activities to promote learning, health, and wellness. And we heard from hundreds of families who received our “Get Ready for Kindergarten” informational packets and subsequently registered their child for kindergarten. Another 600 children participated in kindergarten academies, while 250 kindergarten transition kits found their way to early learning providers.
But the teams are not resting on their laurels. Despite our work, there’s still much to be done. Around 20 percent of Delaware’s early learners live in poverty, and about half of our kindergarteners are arriving to school already behind the curve in basic math and language. Too many young people (about 31 percent) don’t have access to adequate health care, and many still have limited access to formal, high-quality learning settings prior to kindergarten. By the time a child celebrates his or her fifth birthday, nearly 90 percent of intellect, personality, and social skills are already developed. And when children arrive to kindergarten ready to learn, their chances to thrive in school skyrockets.
It’s why we’re refocusing our efforts in 2018 in a few key areas.
- Our kindergarten readiness campaign is in full swing, with important information about kindergarten registration (including the process, timing, paperwork, and a list of all districts and charters are available in English and Spanish) finding its way to families across Delaware. Teams have begun developing projects that will support kindergarten registration and prepare children and families for transitions into kindergarten.
- We are excited that through funding from the Arsht-Cannon Fund teams are providing additional supports to Delaware’s Hispanic/Latino families. We plan to identify and address existing barriers to ensure that Hispanic families are receiving the supports and resource they need, like translators, or printed materials in Spanish.
- We’re excited to showcase our new website, which is chockfull of useful information about our teams’ work and the importance of getting kids off to a great start.
- A new partnership with the Delaware Division of Libraries means great new venues for Readiness Teams meetings and programs, while we encourage families to visit libraries across the state.
- And we’re pleased to continue our partnership with Prevent Child Abuse Delaware to “Strengthen Protective Factors and Build Family Resilience” through a new grant. The grant will support teams as they add even more parent conferences, Kindergarten Academies, family cafés, and more.
Coming soon: readiness team member information sessions in all three counties—if you are interested, submit your contact information here.
Madeleine Bayard is the chair of the Delaware Readiness Teams Advisory Board. Diane Frentzel is the program manager of the Delaware Readiness Teams.