"I know that story, I know that story!" exclaimed a group of Tamara Gottschall's kindergarten students on the third day of school at Ashkar Elementary in Hughesville. A team of educational professionals could not have been more pleased to see and hear that very reaction.
Gottschall had held up the PA One Book, "Up, Down, and Around" to read to the class. Many of the children recalled the story from their pre-K programs. During the Week of the Young Child held in April, the Lycoming County Community Engagement Group coordinated about 50 readings to more than 1,300 children throughout Lycoming County.
Thanks to James V. Brown Library, each child present at the readings received a copy of the book. The state of Pennsylvania's "One Book, Every Young Child" initiative encourages adults to not only read books to children, but engage in discussion about the stories, which is crucial to early learning.
Tamara Gottschall’s kindergarten class at Ashkar Elementary in Hughesville is shown. Gottschall is seated surrounded by her students. Behind Gottschall is Patti Wylie, left, and Jennifer Bolich.
"After we completed all of the readings, we sent follow-up letters to the superintendents and kindergarten teachers in each of the eight public school districts in Lycoming County," said Jennifer Bolich, early childhood education coordinator at Lycoming County United Way. "The letters requested that 'Up, Down, and Around' be incorporated as a transitioning tool into the curriculum during the first month of kindergarten."
In order to accomplish that, the engagement group donated a copy of the book to every superintendent and kindergarten teacher in Lycoming County for use in their classrooms.
Patti Wylie, literacy coach for East Lycoming School District said, "When children attend a quality pre-K program prior to coming to the school district, they know routines and expectations. Their transition from home to full-day school is easier and there is less anxiety for both the children and their parents.
"We were happy to participate in two of the 'Up, Down, and Around' readings this spring and I am thrilled to see the children remember the book and the story.
"This book was specially selected by the PA One Book Program because its illustrations generate discussion and it teaches the children to follow a sequence. Corn grows up, potatoes grow down!" Wylie laughed.
"Having this program coordinated by United Way has been a great benefit to our youngest students. The story about growing vegetables can spark an interest in science, agriculture, nature, cooking with fresh vegetables, all kinds of creative things." Wylie added.
Bolich joined the Lycoming County United Way team in January of 2008 to implement an early childhood education grant from the Office of Child Development and Early Learning and oversee the community engagement group.
"The goal of the community engagement group is to inform parents about the importance of quality early learning and involve members of the community in that effort," Bolich said. "We want to help children be successful in school and we now know that what children learn prior to kindergarten has a huge impact on setting the tone for their entire school experience.
"It was a lot of work to coordinate the readings and follow-up with free copies of the book to all of the schools in the county" Bolich said. "I am grateful to James V. Brown Library for lending a great deal of support and providing books for the children as well as the many readers that traveled to day care and pre-school facilities."
Implementing the early childhood education grant is a new initiative for United Way.
"We were approached to manage this grant because of our solid reputation of accountability and our knowledge of the community." said Scott Lowery, executive director of United Way. "It is a tremendous asset to the community and it complements the work our program partners are doing to nurture children and strengthen families, two of our top priorities in serving the county."
For more information on Lycoming County United Way or Lycoming County Community Engagement Group, call 323-9448.