A Real Page-Turner

Working as a nanny in Malibu, Alma Rodriguez marveled that the wealthy children she cared for received anything they needed or wanted for their educational development, including special classes and tutoring.

She knew, however, that she could never afford the same for her own children.

But rather than become filled with resentment, Alma was filled with purpose. The Van Nuys resident began going to the library to conduct research and attended child development classes with her then eight-month-old daughter.

“I was always looking for what I could do to provide for my kids because I did not have a way to pay for it,” Rodriguez recalled.

So when the time came to propose projects for the Best Start Panorama City and Neighbors communications work group, Rodriguez jumped at the chance. She suggested an interactive drawing book to help children get ready for kindergarten.

Her dream was realized this month with the publication of Ready For Kinder. At 21 pages long, the Ready for Kinder bilingual workbook was designed to help children learn important concepts needed to get ready for kindergarten. It features a numbers section that encourages children to count. Children can also build vocabulary skills by acting out some of the words in the opposites section, tracing letters, naming a cornucopia of vegetables and fruits, and reading high frequency words aloud with their parents. Writing and drawing skills can also be improved with the use of this crayon-friendly book.

First 5 LA, which provided the text and graphics for the workbook, printed 1,000 copies of the book to be distributed to parents.

“Because the book was co-designed by Best Start Community members and First 5 LA staff, it is symbol of what can happen as a result of community involvement and successful collaboration,” said First 5 LA’s Place-Based Marketing Manager Katie Kurutz.

Making the dream a reality was indeed a team effort. The Best Start Panorama City communications workgroup spent months designing the laminated workbook. The cover was illustrated by Panorama City High School student Stephanie Vásquez, who won an art contest.

“Everybody was throwing ideas in and everybody had an opinion,” Rodriguez said. “It was great because we had some awesome people there. We had somebody from Mobile Child Care and they knew about childhood education and we had a grandma and she was always dealing with her grandchildren’s homework. It was just everybody saying, ‘Yes, they get this kind of homework and they need to learn this and they need to know that.’”

“Our specific target audience was the family with 4- year-olds who did not get into a preschool program, so we wanted parents to be able to work with children at home to learn their numbers and letters and things,” said Kathy Schreiner, member of the Best Start Panorama City and Neighbors communications workgroup. “It’s really designed for a parent to be working with the child. We were particularly thinking of low income parents in our Best Start area. We made a strong case as to why we felt this was very compatible to what Best Start was trying to accomplish because this was going to provide tools to parents.”

Research, too, was involved in the effort. Whether searching online or in the library, there just was not another book like this available. Sure, there were individual books on counting, letters, etc., but nothing that combined all the different subjects in one easy-to-use practice workbook.

“In order to give them all the materials the children needed, they would have needed six books,” Rodriguez said.

Now, however, children can learn their shapes, letters, numbers and words all in one place. Even better, Rodriguez said, they learn self-confidence before they make the transition to kindergarten.

“When they have a sense of what is coming up in school and they are familiar with it, they feel successful at school because they already have an idea of what’s going on,” Rodriguez said. “This can make the difference between a stressful kindergartener and one who feels successful.”

Download a free copy of the Ready For Kinder Workbook here.

Click here to see the Panorama City & Neighbors communications work group in action as they plan and carry out the Ready For Kinder event!

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