It’s not all about nap rugs, snack time, shoe-tying and finger-painting anymore. Kindergarten is tough. Seriously. Not quite “Game of Thrones,” but tough. Today’s kindergarten is demanding and consequential, and it will set the tone for the following 12 years of a child’s education.
Research has demonstrated that to be successful in kindergarten, kids need talking and listening abilities in addition to vocabulary and pre-reading skills. They also need involved parents who engage them, often, in activities that promote open-ended conversation; which, in turn, stimulates critical thinking and encourages creative use of their expanding vocabulary.
Even the best preschools can’t constantly provide the level of interaction that’s best for children. Only parents can, and they can get a little (actually, a lot of) help from their friends at the library.
Three years ago, Phoenix Public Library, in partnership with First Things First and the Phoenix Library Foundation, began offering Kindergarten Bootcamp to children getting ready to enter kindergarten.
The free program consists of seven weekly one-hour sessions attended by a child and a parent/caregiver. That adult must pre-register and commit to attend, with the child, all seven classes, and both must come ready to participate. Each very interactive session is built around a specific learning concept and will give the parent/caregiver information, tools and activities to help prepare their child to succeed in kindergarten and meet the expectations of Arizona’s educational standards.
And each class, guided by early learning specialists, will give the parent/caregiver the opportunity to learn and practice school-readiness skills with the child, so those skills can be practiced and reinforced at home as often as possible. When kindergarten begins, the child is prepared.
Since the 2016 start-up, the library’s confidence in the program has grown even greater as the demand for it increases beyond the high initial levels and as the positive results are documented. Librarian Wendy Resnik, Children & Teen Services Coordinator at Phoenix Public Library, says that more than 3,000 families have participated in Kindergarten Bootcamp. She also says that the curriculum has been evaluated, refined and polished, and that new activities have been added.
“The biggest innovation since 2016,” Resnik says, “is that we introduced a companion program called Tools for School for 3- to 5-year-olds.” More about that soon.
Resnik’s enthusiasm for Bootcamp is contagious. It’s no surprise that this program has turned out to be tremendously successful, demonstrably so. Every autumn, she sends a survey to the families who have participated during the previous 12 months to obtain on-the-ground reporting about children who have completed the course and are actually in kindergarten. Satisfaction is sky-high, with approval numbers that would make a politician swoon.
Parents/caregivers were asked if:
- Bootcamp helped them to prepare their children for kindergarten; 96 percent agreed or strongly agreed.
- They received information and activities that they could use even after Bootcamp ended; 92 percent agreed or strongly agreed.
- They were confident in their ability to support their children’s learning at home; 92 percent were extremely or quite confident.
They were also asked how the children were doing in kindergarten. One hundred percent of responding parents said their children were excelling and loving school. Pretty impressive statistics for any educational endeavor. About 60 percent of the kids who attended the classes had not been in a preschool program, but the other 40 percent had, and still found the Bootcamp experience worthwhile, so any parent who is interested in building or reinforcing their child’s school-readiness bona fides might want to give Kindergarten Bootcamp a try.
If you have a child who will enter kindergarten in the fall of 2020, and you are willing and able to make the time commitment, the library is beginning a new round of Bootcamps in September and October. Classes are available on weekdays, weekends or evenings at branches citywide, as well as at offsite locations such as community and health centers.
If your child is not yet eligible for the program or the time commitment is not doable but you want to begin school-readiness training, Resnik has a solution: the companion program, Tools for School. It was developed because Bootcamp was so popular that parents were trying to enroll younger children who were not ready for the level of instruction the course was providing. The library’s early learning specialists created an alternative: an “interactive weekly drop-in program for 3- to 5-year-olds and their favorite adults” where, as noted on the library website, they “will work on school readiness skills such as persistence, flexibility and problem-solving while enjoying stories and activities.”
Resnik elaborated, “Tools For School is a 45-minute program that covers some of the same readiness skills that get more in-depth coverage in Bootcamp, but are geared for younger children. We spend a lot of time on social-emotional skills, understanding and naming emotions, as well as phonological awareness and fine/gross motor skills.”
Tools for School is offered at more than half of the city’s library branches and various community locations. Many Bootcamp graduates attend Tools classes to keep their just-learned skills fresh.
Kindergarten is coming. Bootcamp can help your kids tame the school-readiness dragons.
Kindergarten Bootcamp sessions and sign-ups
1325 S. Fifth Ave., Phoenix
11 a.m. to noon Saturdays, Sept. 14-Oct. 26.
Registration begins Aug. 10.
Palo Verde Library
4402 N. 51st Ave., Phoenix
12:30-1:30 p.m. Saturdays, Sept. 7-Oct. 19.
Registration begins Aug. 10.
1825 W. Union Hills Drive, Phoenix
9:15-10:15 a.m. Mondays, Sept. 23-Nov. 4.
Registration begins Aug. 19.
Burton Barr Central Library
1221 N. Central Ave., Phoenix
5:30-6:30 p.m. Thursdays, Sept. 26-Nov. 14.
Registration begins Aug. 10.
23550 N. 36th Ave., Phoenix
1:30-2:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 1-Nov. 12.
Registration begins Aug. 27.
1750 E. Highland Ave., Phoenix
1:15-2:15 p.m. Sundays, Oct. 6-Nov. 17.
Registration begins Aug. 31.
10050 Metro Parkway East, Phoenix
10:15-11:15 a.m. Wednesdays, Oct. 23-Dec. 4.
Registration begins Sept. 25.
Goelet A.C. Beuf Community Center
3435 W. Pinnacle Peak Road, Phoenix
6:30-7:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Oct. 1-Nov. 12.
Paradise Valley Family Resource Center
17835 N. 44th St., Phoenix
1:30-2:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Sept. 17-Oct. 29.