October 30, 2018

BOISE, Idaho — A free workshop in Idaho is helping parents prepare their children for school. And it’s filling a much-needed gap in the Gem State.

Idaho is one of five states that doesn’t invest in preschool, and only 30 percent of kids in the state are enrolled in a preschool program. When it’s time for kindergarten, about half of kids have grade-level reading skills.

The READY! for Kindergarten programs set parents up with the skills to prepare their kids for school over three workshops. Ruth Calnon is a retired teacher who volunteers with READY! for Kindergarten.

“What it does is, it trains the families to be their child’s first and most important teacher,” Calnon said. “We know that they spend a lot more time with their children than we do as educators, and so this gives them the tools and the training and actually the toys and activities and things to do with them.”

The program, run by the Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children, helps the parents of kids up to age five develop social-emotional, pre-literacy and pre-math skills in age-appropriate ways. Calnon noted the workshops are offered in Spanish and they’ve also held classes in languages such as Swahili for the state’s growing refugee populations.

Jessica Foster and her husband have attended workshops with their son and daughter. She said they are informative, and added it’s helpful to talk to teachers who run the workshops about how to set a child up for success in school.

“If parents don’t feel all that confident about their knowledge, I think it’s a really great place for them to go to learn a lot, and it’s nice that it’s taught by teachers,” Foster said. “So if you have any questions about kindergarten or things you could be doing to help them get ready for it, it’s nice to be able to ask a teacher those questions.”

Calnon said kids without an educational base can come to class behind their peers and struggle to catch up.

“It really hurts their self-esteem. It makes them think, ‘Well, maybe I can’t ever learn this,’” she said. “And it’s just wonderful to be able to change that dynamic, because parents do want the best for their kids.”

Koelsch Elementary in Boise will be holding a workshop on November 5. More workshops will be held at Garfield and Taft elementary schools at the end of November.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service – ID