Through a grant from the Community Foundation’s Strategic Grantmaking Fund, a new Fairview Preschool class is getting 4-year-olds moving toward literacy.
“It’s amazing to watch story time now versus the first day,” says Cameron Rains, Director of Elementary Education for the Monroe County Community School Corporation. “It was impossible to get them all assembled, because they had no experience in this kind of setting. Now, they know the environment, they are part of the school. They are used to the balance of structured and unstructured activities.”
This familiarity with the flow of the school day – and comfort with a classroom full of students and teachers – is just as essential to early learning as the preschool curriculum, explains Rains. Attending preschool gives kids the chance to develop confidence in a group setting while learning to cooperate with peers, follow classroom rules, and listen to and trust teachers. Meanwhile, through a combination of play-based and structured lessons, children are learning the concepts that form the foundation for literacy.
None of these kids would be here, however, without the grant the school received last year from the Community Foundation of Bloomington and Monroe County. Educators are in consensus that early learning is essential for school success, but Indiana is one of only ten states that does not fund public preschool. Although the national Head Start program provides preschool for families below a certain income level, many more cannot afford private preschool or daycare. Fairview was able to secure staff, space, and the top-rated Literacy Express preschool curriculum through Federal Title I funding, but there was still no budget for transportation.“Transportation is a bigger deal than many people realize,” Rains says. “In a lot of situations, there is no car. Our farthest pick-up point is a 15-minute drive, and there is really no safe way to walk here.”
The Community Foundation grant provided $10,000 for Fairview to contract with Head Start for a year of school bus service. This crucial service has enabled 17 children to start preschool at Fairview this school year.
Fairview has already been able to measure exciting progress in the children’s pre-literacy skills. Beyond those numbers, though, there are 17 individual stories that have been altered for the better by this gift.
“It’s easy to see the research and say, ‘Yes, this is a good idea,’” Rains says. “But then you look at these students and realize that each one is a person whose life will be better off because of this experience. That’s why we’re doing it.”
Why Early Education is Paramount
Research has demonstrated a consistent link between 3rd-grade reading outcomes and later school and professional success.
“Kids need to be reading well by third grade or it’s exponentially more likely that they will not complete high school,” Rains says.