Six preschoolers giggled with delight as author Denise Kaminsky told them about Penn State’s Nittany Lion getting the hiccups. In a nearby room, smaller children admired the Ms. State Capitol crown and sash on Caroline Jones as she spoke to the group about the importance of leadership. In yet another room, a third cluster of little ones marveled at the ornate artwork of illustrator Carin Shanley.
While these children were being entranced by the magic of books and reading, their parents, and even some preschool teachers, were in another room being given tools to help their literacy skills. They heard from Crestwood Superintendent Joseph Gorham, who initiated a literacy program to increase reading proficiency in children before they reach the elementary level.
Literacy levels have been down among children entering kindergarten, Gorham told the parents, and Crestwood teachers have been working harder than ever to help kids catch up. “If we don’t get kids to read earlier, we’ll all suffer,” he said. “I don’t know why we haven’t, as a nation, decided this is a crisis.”
It was Gorham’s research in the downward trends of pre-K literacy and his experience in boosting the reading proficiency levels of children entering Carbondale, his former district, that moved him to start a similar program here. Children aren’t coloring and tying shoes in kindergarten like they were in his day, he related, but are facing greater academic demands.
The Crestwood Community Literacy Night, held at Fairview Elementary on November 2, was the first in Gorham’s public outreach to improve literacy. While the children were being dazzled by the two local authors and the illustrator, Gorham introduced Pam Pulkowski to the parents. An educator since 1972, she told the group that she knows better than anyone what works for children’s literacy and what does not.
Pulkowski then launched into an explanation of the “Teach Me to Learn at Home” program, a computer or electronic-based medium that helps parents of newborn babies and toddlers to preschoolers help boost their children’s language proficiencyAfter her tutorial, Pulkowski escorted the parents into the school’s computer lab where they were all guided in signing onto the program, which is free and can be used by anyone with internet access.
“These are concrete and research-based strategies to have kids ready to go to school,” Pulkowski noted.