Joe Schmitt writes a weekly blog called The Good Life, featuring information about the region’s history, culture, climate and economy. The blog also showcases new residents, clubs and organizations, outdoor recreational opportunities and local events.
Five years have passed since a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Thrive by Five Washington initiated the planning phase for Yakima’s Ready by Five program. Two years later, another grant made it possible to launch the program, serving children from birth to age five in East Yakima, one of the most economically disadvantaged areas in Yakima County. In the three years Ready by Five began serving East Yakima children the number of students demonstrating school readiness as they enter kindergarten has increased steadily. Compared to 31% overall kindergarten readiness in the Yakima School District and a 40% national average, as measured by DIBELS literacy evaluations, the rates in Ready by Five’s service area increased from just 19% to 22%. Thanks to two new grants, Ready by Five is poised to launch new programming developed to enrich the lives of children and their families.
Preparing Children To Learn The 957 children served through Ready by Five’s Kindergarten Transition Program since its launch in 2008 have entered school better prepared to learn. The program allows kindergartners from three East Yakima schools to begin school two weeks early. “We get them ready socially and emotionally. We encourage teachers to make home visits so they can discuss goals, establish connections with the families and open a line of communication,” says Elizabeth Mendoza, Ready by Five’s Coordinator of Community Outreach. “This has been such a successful program that the school district adopted it for one week in all their kindergarten classes. It makes the teachers’ lives so much easier. They can actually start teaching on the first day of school,” says Mendoza.
Enriching Environments Ready by Five programming not only helps children acquire skill sets required to meet academic expectations. It enriches the environments that surround them in their earliest years and provides support and education for their families. Between Community Workers, Home-Based Early Learning and Family Engagement programming, “our goal is to reach the nearly 4,000 children under the age of five who live in East Yakima,” says Mendoza. Programming provides one-on-one coaching and advanced education for childcare providers, as well as in-home support for families and family activities.
On The Horizon Thanks to two new grants from the Yakima Valley Community Foundation, new programming will provide additional support to East Yakima families and children. A $1,000 grant will facilitate the development of a community garden. “The options are endless for the education we can tie to the garden,” says Mendoza. Through the wonder-filled process of gardening, children will learn about healthy eating, ecology and environmental stewardship,” says Mendoza. A $15,000 grant helps Ready by Five develop a new leadership training program for parents, helping them develop leadership skills to better prepare them for involvement in the community and in their children’s schools. “The training will transfer to all aspects of community life. Parents can be meaningful participants in community processes and become advocates for their children,” says Mendoza. Additional funding is still needed. “We are deeply grateful for the initial funding we received from the Gates Foundation and Thrive by Five Washington. At this time, they would like our community to support parent engagement and education programs, so they’re withdrawing their funding in these areas.” Local financial contributions can keep these vital services in place.
Visit the Ready by Five website http://www.readybyfive.org/ for more information about programming and opportunities to support their efforts.