INDIANAPOLIS – Students learn to read from kindergarten through third grade, before switching to reading to learn in fourth grade. This, coupled with a new state requirement to hold back third-graders who don’t pass their IREAD-3 reading test, places an extra importance on ensuring our children are ready for kindergarten.
That’s why Indiana University Health and United Way of Central Indiana are coming together in 2012 to expand the successful “Kindergarten Countdown” program, which gets underway Saturday with an enrollment and readiness kickoff event at the Central Library in downtown Indianapolis.
Attendees can register for kindergarten with Indianapolis Public Schools and receive free school supplies and uniform shirt, health screenings and immunizations. IPS Superintendent Eugene White and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett will also be present.
In addition to the enrollment and readiness kickoff events scheduled this month throughout Indiana, programs in four IU Health communities – Marion, Morgan, Hamilton and Hendricks counties – will later this year start offering several-month long early reading programs, staffed by IU Health employees who will come into preschool classrooms to read to and work with children. Fourteen IU Health communities will still play host to summer camps.
In 2011, United Ways across the state, alongside IU Health, helped enroll hundreds of at-risk children in kindergarten classes, in addition to sending hundreds to free summer readiness camps. The camps proved valuable: Students who attended camps in the IPS district last year saw an 11 percent increase from pre- to post-camp literacy test scores.
“While the summer camps are a great stepping stone for preparing children for kindergarten, we know that’s not enough. Research clearly indicates that future kindergarteners benefit from regular reading time with adults,” said Ron Stiver, senior vice president for Engagement & Public Affairs at IU Health. “We know that getting off to a strong start in education pays great dividends, even impacting whether a student attends and successfully completes college. IU Health is pleased to partner with United Way to help ensure every Hoosier child has an opportunity to start strong.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), lower grades, test scores and educational attainment are consistently linked to violence and physical inactivity. By ensuring our children are ready to learn from a young age, we’re also ensuring their future good health.
Furthermore, only roughly 70 percent of Hoosier students passed their English/Language Arts and math ISTEP+ exams in spring 2011, according to the Indiana Department of Education. Underserved children’s cognitive development can be upwards of two years behind that of their counterparts.
“Reading to young children can impact their success in school, and children who do better in school are more likely to graduate, improving their odds of being successful in life,” said Ellen K. Annala, president and CEO, United Way of Central Indiana. “That simple idea is what made IU Health want to continue supporting this program. We hope it will spur more people and organizations to join them.”