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"Pandemic preschoolers": Free book program hopes to prepare kids for kindergarten

School leaders say they hope this program will help with the transition to kindergarten in the fall.

OTTAWA COUNTY, Mich. — Students of all ages have faced educational challenges during this pandemic, but what about the younger kids who are in preschool or haven't entered kindergarten yet?

Experts have some concerns that they may be behind, but for hundreds of kids in Ottawa County, a free book program is hoping to get them ready for success.

"What we realized last spring, was that many of our kids who would have gotten two years of preschool may not have because of the pandemic shutdown, so they're preschool experiences were cut short," said Dr. Tami Mannes, Director of Early Childhood Services for Ottawa Area ISD.

The Ottawa Area Intermediate School District wanted to make sure those young students have as much success as possible as they head into kindergarten next year. And they're focusing on that success - with books. 

"Reading is an activity that at that age takes another adult and relationship," said Dr. Mannes. "And we know positive relationships matter and books can be a platform for developing positive relationships."

The district's preschool Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP) has partnered with Kids Read Now to mail at least six books in either Spanish or English to every 4-year-old student this summer that they have enrolled. Dr. Mannes said that's just over 800 students.

"The books will be developmentally appropriate and are intended to be read with a parent, or neighbor, or even maybe a babysitter," Dr. Mannes said.

School leaders say they hope this program will help with the transition to kindergarten in the fall. 

"It's really just about keeping books in the home so kids can continue to look at them and experience them throughout the summer," said Mannes.

Mannes said even for those who are not in this free book program, there are several ways to get your future kindergartener books and reading experience, like going to the library.

"Any exposure is better than no exposure," she said.

Mannes adds that even though students this young can't read on their own yet, it is more about the experience than the book itself.

"It's just a platform," she said. "It's the language that matters more than the words on the page."

You can find more information on this new program from the school district below:

Ottawa Area ISD Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP) has partnered with Kids Read Now to mail at least six books in either Spanish or English to every 4-year-old student enrolled in GSRP through Ottawa County this summer. 

"We know one result of the pandemic in 2020 was that it limited some children's exposure to preschool," Tami Mannes Ph.D., director of early childhood services for Ottawa Area ISD, said. "This collaboration will help students make an easier transition to kindergarten next year by giving them a reliable source of high-quality books throughout the summer."

Another goal of the program is to reduce a decline in reading ability and other academic skills that can occur over the summer months when school is not in session also known as "summer slide". 

"We are honored to partner with Ottawa Area ISD to help equip kids and their families for a successful literacy journey throughout their local schools," Glen Miller, senior outreach director for Kids Read Now, said. "It all starts with access to books and we're glad to help."   

The Kids Read Now Book Bridge Program includes exciting multi-ethnic, fiction, nonfiction, and award-winning titles loved by children. Mailing books builds ongoing enthusiasm without the requirement of in-home technology. Each book includes guided discussion questions to help improve reading skills and increase family engagement. 

Kids Read Now

Kids Read Now is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization with the singular mission to eliminate learning loss for all K-3 students. To learn more about Kids Read Now and the Book Bridge Program, please visit www.KidsReadNow.org.  

Ottawa Area ISD

Ottawa Area Intermediate School District works collaboratively with schools and communities to meet the educational needs of students of all ages in the Ottawa area. By pooling resources and providing services regionally, Ottawa Area ISD provides important programs and services to local K‐12 school districts, charter, parochial and private schools and adults in the most cost‐effective ways possible. To learn more about Ottawa Area ISD visit www.oaisd.org

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