Get ready, puppeteers: The Pine River Library in Bayfield is handing out kindergarten preparedness activity bags, and the first batch uses puppets to practice speech development.
The activity bags are part of a program that helps informal caregivers, such as grandparents and family friends, prepare children from birth to age 5 for kindergarten. The program is funded through a $7,500 Growing Readers Together grant from the Colorado State Library.
“The whole point of this movement is to make sure that informal caregivers have all the access they need to get the kids in their care ready for school,” said Summer Sanford, children’s services specialist at the library.
Coloradans rely on informal caregivers for child care. In 2013, about 142,000 children younger than 6 years old took part in some type of unlicensed child care, with an additional 160,000 kids receiving care from a stay-at-home parent, according to the Colorado Department of Education Growing Readers Together, citing a 2013 report.
Family, friends and neighbor caregivers in eight Colorado counties also said they wanted to receive resources to help them educate and care for young children, including information related to child brain development, appropriate developmental milestones, enriching activities and techniques to bolster early literacy, according to the state.
With the grant funds, the Pine River Library is providing access to free activity bags and a corresponding podcast produced by the library, called the PRL KidsCast.
Each month, the kits and podcast will highlight a different domain of school readiness, such as motor skills for writing and social-emotional skills for children. In April, the focus will be on talking, using a puppet-making kit and special podcast episode, Sanford said.
The podcast, produced by the partners, releases episodes targeted toward caregivers called “Growing Together” at the beginning of the month, and episodes for kids called “The World of Stories” in the middle of the month.
In the fall, the partners plan to facilitate kindergarten readiness workshops, Sanford said.
The program will kick off during the Week of the Young Child celebration at the La Plata Family Center. The library has partnered with the family center to reach more families, particularly those who speak English as a second language.
Sanford and representatives from the family center will give away activity bags and library books at the Welcome Wednesday event from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 14.
The activity kits are available at the library, and the PRL KidsCast is available on Apple, Spotify, Stitcher, Amazon Music, Overcast or at prlibrary.org/kids-podcast.
“There’s a number of kids that are not totally prepared for at least one domain of school readiness, for maybe reading or that connection with books,” Sanford said. “We’re really just showing caregivers specific things to get them ready. ... These are things caregivers are already doing, but we’re approaching this with more intentionality.”