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Mendo Lake Family Life

Local Initiative Readies Kids for Kindergarten

Mar 03, 2020 01:02PM
The Lake County Office of Education (LCOE) wants to make sure that kids ages 0–5 are given ample opportunities to grow and eventually be ready for kindergarten. So they created the Bloom program. Carly Swatosh-Sherman, LCOE education specialist, filled us in on what the program is all about.

Family Life: Tell us about the basics of Bloom.

Carly Swatosh-Sherman: We started Bloom as a way to encourage all of our families with 0–5-year-olds to use simple techniques to help their children get ready for kindergarten. We mainly communicate through Facebook because it’s free and easy to access. On our website, lakebloom.org, we post events, information about preschools and kindergartens, and monthly activities and questions, like “What is a family tradition that you enjoy?” We talk about different children’s books and authors as well as about different milestones that kids need to meet. We post links to our web content on our Facebook page (@lakecoe.org), and then ask people to post comments about their experiences with our activities and materials. People who share their input on our Facebook page are entered to win prize packages. The prizes are all developmentally appropriate for kindergarten readiness.

FL: Are you modeling this program after others in the country, or is it something that you’ve figured out on your own?

CSS: We’re not completely modeling it after any one program. What we found was that we had a lot of families on Facebook reacting and communicating about the fires. And that’s how we discovered that Facebook was a really good way to access everyone.

FL: So the fires taught you a valuable lesson, in terms of how to communicate with parents, and you just jumped on it.

CSS: Yes. We also print a book called Bloom into Kindergarten. It’s written in English and Spanish, printed locally, and distributed by all of our elementary schools and the Lake County Department of Social Services. It covers topics such as how to determine kindergarten readiness; what you need, as far as paperwork, to actually enroll kids; and different social, emotional, physical, and academic activities to practice at home—for instance, practicing counting and becoming familiar with books.

FL: What are your goals for the program, beyond what you’ve already told us, and how do you hope to achieve them?

CSS: Our specific goal is to increase kindergarten readiness. And how we achieve that is to run a Kindergarten Development Screening every fall in every Lake County kindergarten classroom. It helps us to gauge how students who are entering kindergarten are doing. Another big goal is to increase the time that parents and kids spend face-to-face, forming attachments and bonds while doing things like reading together. An additional objective is increasing kindergarten registration before the first day of school. We try to make sure families register either in the spring or in the early summer. It just really helps when children are already enrolled and ready to go. They feel included in the school, teachers can have everything prepared, and kids can really enjoy that first day with their new friends.