READY! program helps kindergartners start ahead, stay ahead

What could be better than tots learning in the lap of those who love them most?

That is the essential idea behind READY! for Kindergarten. After four years of creating success for pre-schoolers, READY! launches its fifth year of free classes for parents of young children this Saturday (Oct. 13) at Farmin-Stidwell Elementary.

Kathleen Mulroy, new director of READY! for Kindergarten, said she is excited that many new attendees have signed up for Saturday’s classes. “Word of mouth is helping to grow our program,” Mulroy said. “Happy parents are telling their friends about READY!”

One happy parent is Devyn Miller, mother of Mia, 2. She attended all three classes last year and is looking forward to Saturday’s class. “It has been really, really beneficial,” Miller said. While some of what she learned is “stuff we would have done anyway,” she said the instruction and materials provide “fresh perspective.” She described a technique for teaching Mia about curved lines and straight lines as she learns to draw letters. “I wouldn’t have thought of that,” she said.

READY! teacher Deborah McShane agrees. Saturday will mark her fourth year teaching parent classes. She is a former middle school teacher and now teaches at Sandpoint High School. “I was so excited to do this,” McShane said, “because even some of the very best parents sometimes feel inadequate about preparing their child for school. READY! breaks down that barrier so parents know just what to do at each level of their child’s development.”

Panhandle Alliance for Education started the program in 2008 to meet the early childhood education needs of local families like the Millers. Since then the program has grown from 263 parents the first year to 380 last year.

The track record supports parent and teacher sentiments. Over the last four years, children whose parents attended the classes entered kindergarten at or above skills needed to succeed at school in significantly higher numbers than other youngsters. Nearly 90 percent or more of READY! students have arrived truly ready to learn, compared to 66 percent of other youngsters.

The motto of READY! could well be Start Ahead, Stay Ahead. Education research clearly shows that students ready to start learning essential skills in kindergarten do far better throughout their school years than those who have to spend time catching up. Some never do catch up.

Also, in recent decades, exciting studies of brain development show that the earliest years of a child’s life are the peak learning years. That’s all the more reason to empower parents to be their child’s first and best teacher.

In the READY! program trained instructors meet with parents three times a year to present a carefully researched and designed curriculum that sequences the skills according to children’s developmental characteristics. Parents are encouraged to share their experiences with their peers, to ask questions, and to report back concerning the activities learned in the previous class.

The 90-minute classes provide information on how a child learns at each age level, along with essential tools and activities that are easy and fun. The classes include all the tools and materials needed (toys and books that go home with the parent) are free to class participants.

Parent Devyn Miller said the books are her daughter’s favorites on a very crowded bookshelf.

Registration begins at 9 a.m. Orientation for newcomers is at 9:30 and classes begin at 10.

READY! for Kindergarten is open to all families in the Lake Pend Oreille School District. For more information contact the PAFE office, 263-7040 or go to the website,