Parent Tool KitsPutnam City Schools Foundation
|Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence representatives (from left) Suzanne Thompson, chair of the Local Education Outreach Committee, and President Susie Thurmond present the 2011 Outstanding Program Award for Local Education Foundations to Putnam City Schools Foundation Director Caroline Gist (center); Early Birds Program director Kelly Suchy, and Putnam City Schools Foundation board member Mark McCoy.|
The program, which began in 2006, gives parents the tools and training to teach their children early learning skills from prenatal to age 5. The parent tool kits sponsored by the Putnam City Schools Foundation include notebooks of poems, rhymes, finger plays, music CDs, activity books, alphabet shapes, white boards and tracing shapes, puzzles, game boards, puppets and books. Trained instructors show parents how to “play with a purpose” using the materials. Parents attend three classes each year, which are available in both English and Spanish. Parents are encouraged to read to their children and use the learning materials daily to enhance school readiness.
“Early Birds honors parents as their child’s most influential and most loved teacher,” said foundation board member Donna Powell. “It is designed to narrow the achievement gap before kindergarten, since research shows that children who start ahead, stay ahead throughout their school years.”
The program has grown steadily, from serving 525 children in 2006-07 to serving nearly 2,000 children in 2010-11. Student outcomes are measured using a kindergarten readiness assessment and literacy skills assessment. Students whose parents have participated in the Early Birds Program averaged 95 percent on their Kindergarten Benchmark Test in 2011, while the national average score is 60 percent.
Laura Martin, a parent who participated in the program, said her son has benefited greatly from the program. “I love how the activities and materials are hands-on and are developmentally appropriate for the age level,” she said. “My son loves to get down his Early Birds Bag and use all the toys. It is fun to use the materials in such a structured way and see him learn the objectives, while having fun doing so. I have seen growth in so many areas since we have started doing the activities suggested in the program.”