By Rick Palsgrove
Starting kindergarten is a big step in a child’s life and the Columbus Metropolitan Library wants to help kids get ready for the challenges of school.
The Southeast Branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library, 3980 S. Hamilton Road, Groveport, has created a “Ready for Kindergarten Area” where preschoolers ages 3 to 5, and their families, can prepare for kindergarten.
According to Kathy Shahbodaghi, public services director for the Columbus Metropolitan Library, the 8 by 17 foot space in the Southeast Library for the Ready for Kindergarten Area includes an interactive whiteboard equipped with learning apps, a magnetic word wall, toys that assist with motor and cognitive development, an alphabet puzzle, blocks, story cards, child sized tables and chairs, and more. The area is open during regular library hours and library staff are available to help.
“Kindergarten readiness is one of the library’s major goals and we want to emphasize the importance of preparing children for kindergarten,” said Shahbodaghi. “The Ready for Kindergarten Area is designed to familiarize preschoolers with the classroom and classroom items to help them succeed on their first day of school and beyond.”
Shahbodaghi said the program benefits children as well as their parents.
“We want to give parents the tools and knowledge to be their child’s first teacher and to support early literacy skills and early learning at home,” said Shahbodaghi.
Shahbodaghi said the interactive whiteboard in the library’s kindergarten space features a touch screen with interactive apps that focus on literacy skills such as letter recognition, the sounds of letters and words, vocabulary, and rhyming.
“Rhyming, such as nursery rhymes, is important and underrated,” said Shahbodaghi. “Rhyming enables young ears to tune into sounds of letters and words and helps children in learning to read.”
She said many of today’s schools feature whiteboards and that by having preschoolers work with a whiteboard they become familiar with how to use the technology to learn before they start school.
She said the use of story cards, such as “Goldilocks and the Three Bears,” by preschoolers and their parents helps children understand that a story has a beginning, middle and end.
“This helps a child comprehend reading and its concepts,” said Shahbodaghi. “Reading is the building block to learning. It is the key to all of it.”
The Ready for Kindergarten Area in the Southeast Library is located near the library’s picture book area. A large wooden mock yellow school bus helps patrons locate the space.
The Southeast Library is the fifth library branch to have a Ready for Kindergarten Area. The other branches are Driving Park, Whitehall, Linden, and Karl Road. The Parsons branch is slated to receive one soon.
Shahbodaghi said the Columbus Metropolitan Library serves 10 Central Ohio school districts and that three of these districts – Columbus, Groveport Madison, and Whitehall – have gaps in their kindergarten readiness state assessment scores. She said one of the reasons the Southeast Branch was selected to have a Ready for Kindergarten Area was to help preschoolers in the Groveport Madison school district prepare for kindergarten.
“We think the Ready for Kindergarten Area will benefit the children and families in the Groveport Madison district,” said Shahbodaghi.
“We are thrilled with the library’s program,” said Groveport Madison Schools spokesperson Jeff Warner. “Anything to be done in partnership with the community to bolster the skills of our very young students will help them be more successful in school.”
Warner said less than 50 percent of incoming Groveport Madison kindergarten students have met the state’s kindergarten readiness assessment benchmark.
“This means more than half of them are not ready to start kindergarten based on achievement,” said Warner. “Anything to better prepare them will certainly be a benefit as they start their academic experience at Groveport Madison Schools.”
The creation of the Ready for Kindergarten Area in the Southeast Branch was made possible by $16,000 in funding from PNC Bank.
“PNC Bank also has a focus on kindergarten readiness and early learning,” said Shahbodaghi.