J is for Jameson!: Program preps preschoolers for the classroom

The COVID-19 pandemic has put libraries nationwide in uncharted territory. We miss our customers, we miss interacting with them, and we miss hosting programs that educate and inspire.

We've created this blog series, Stories from Before, chronicling the stories of customers who ♥ all the Library offers, be it Storytime or Summer Reading, Books By Mail, English Language Classes, and much more. We hope these uplifting stories can help us all get through these challenging times and think about a brighter future.

J is for Jameson!: Program preps preschoolers for the classroom

When a child starts kindergarten, the experience can be daunting for parents. The skills needed to be successful go far beyond recognizing colors, shapes, and letters. Sitting still in crisscross applesauce, raising their hands, lining up for recess, getting along with other kids, listening to directions, and communicating their thoughts are just a handful of things they’ll tackle.

In Pima County, nearly 80% of preschool-aged children are not enrolled in quality preschools. For many families, it’s just not an option. Language and financial barriers, single-parent homes, and non-traditional work schedules often create obstacles outside of their control.

In comes Ready, Set, School!, an eight-week Library program offered in English and Spanish, designed for children and their caregivers to learn together and interact in ways that prepare the child to take that first step in their education.

Jameson and his mother, Michelle, were part of the pilot program at Joel D. Valdez Main Library. “My favorite letter is ‘J’ because my name is Jameson and I love when we read books about numbers,” he exclaims.

Michelle says, “We loved the program. It was an extension of learning at a place where we already come and we’re comfortable. We attend Preschool Storytime on Wednesdays, and he checks out nearly twenty books every week.”

She continues, “He takes his usual spot on the couch in the Children’s Room and pages through all the books he’s picked out. He even taught his two-year-old brother, Roland, to do the same.”

Ready, Set, School! goes beyond books. Once a week, for eight weeks, children learn the essential life skills—from sitting still to following directions—that they’ll need to be successful in school and throughout the rest of their lives.

Araceli Islas, an AmeriCorps member hired by the Library to research and develop the program, says, “Ready, Set, School! helps families become life-long learners together. Children gain knowledge and skills, while parents learn how to help them at home.”

“Caregivers,” says Araceli, “are their child’s first teacher. Being able to send them home with the tools needed to extend learning beyond Library doors is incredibly rewarding.” These tools include everything from suggested learning activities, home-play, songs, and books, as well as a free copy of the Scholastic School Readiness Kit.

For Michelle and Jameson, the program has been invaluable. “We use the Alphabet Sound Chant we learned to play ‘I Spy’ when we’re out and about. We even had a great conversation about bingo daubers because Jameson was curious about the ink sloshing around inside his pen.”

“It’s a great example of the ways caregivers can engage children’s curiosity by simply having conversations,” says Araceli.

“Using the tools Araceli gave us,” Michelle claims, “has allowed me to see his weaknesses and strengths at home and help him with what he needs.”

‘J’ is for Jameson… ‘L’ is for life-long learning!

We’re grateful to the Pima Library Foundation for their support of Ready, Set, School!