A local nonprofit that seeks to promote early childhood education hosted a picnic for local preschoolers on Thursday at the Charlottesville Sprint Pavilion, celebrating another year of the Play Partners program.
“We feel like we’re making a great impact on the community, and we’re celebrating the culmination of everything the program and kids have achieved this year,” said Jacki Bryant, executive director of ReadyKids.
ReadyKids has been active in the Charlottesville community for over 95 years. Their vision is to ensure that every child in the community is ready to learn.
ReadyKids holds programs to help pregnant mothers, provide teen counseling and support early childhood learning.
“To see that we are able to help these kids and families along their journey and their path is amazing,” said Loretta Willis, a STAR Kids educator.
STAR Kids is a program that works with teachers to create an environment that encourages children to grow and learn. STAR kids educators lead lessons with teachers, and suggest follow up activities for the teachers to implement in their classrooms.
Over 100 kids ages 2 to 5 attended the picnic. Activities included a bean bag toss, necklace making, bubble blowing, face painting, relay racing and reading at a book nook.
Children were also able to dance with scarves as volunteer Laurie Duxbury played the violin.
“It’s really fun to connect with the kids, and I love watching them connect to the music,” said Duxbury.
Book Baskets partnered with the ReadyKids Play Partners Program to provide over 500 books to the children to read throughout the year. Children review the books with volunteers for about a month and take the books home with them at the end of the month.
Book Baskets is a private, nonprofit organization that promotes reading through book ownership. The organization has been active in Charlottesville since 1995. Partners of the Book Baskets program include over 30 local education and social service programs.
The Play Partners Program is held October through May, and volunteers visit the children weekly. The main focus of the Play Partners program is to teach literacy skills to preschool-aged children through storytelling and active participation, also known as dialogic reading.
Dialogic reading encourages adults to hold discussions with children while reading to them.
“To get the children’s wheels rolling, I ask them questions. I love getting the kids excited about the books, so when they take it home, they know it by heart and can read it to themselves,” said Jenny Greyson, who has been a volunteer with the Play Partners Program for 18 years.
Five daycares were represented at the day’s event, including the Jaba Shining Star Preschool, Wee Care Daycare, Barrett Early Learning Center, Hilltop Child Care Center, and family-owned Delois Day Care.
Interested community members are encouraged to volunteer with ReadyKids following a background check and orientation session.
“The Play Partners Program through ReadyKids is such an invaluable resource to the children and childcare in Charlottesville,” said volunteer Dede Smith.