Donation helps Lunenburg County preschoolers learn to read

Published 8:30 am Thursday, February 16, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Thanks to a donation from QuickStart Tennis of Central Virginia, preschool children in Lunenburg County will be more prepared to walk through the doors of kindergarten soon.

“Their goal is to create happy, healthy, active and literate kids in the communities,” said Dawn Bacon, Lunenburg School’s director of elementary curriculum. She says Quick Start reached out to her to see if the district wanted to participate in the activity that provides Pre-K children with take-home books each month. For Bacon, it was a no-brainer.

“Around twenty-three percent of our students in kindergarten are below benchmark when they’re coming into kindergarten,” Bacon said. “This is based on a screener called PALS, which screens for the literacy of incoming students. We are trying to promote those readiness skills for preschoolers, and provide them with opportunities where they can engage with families on books they can read together.”

From January through May, students will receive a book they can take home, along with activities so parents can get involved as well.

Bacon explains, the activities are related to literacy, coloring or math, so they can ask their children questions that relate to the book’s content.

Lynda Harrill, the founder of Quick Start Tennis of Central VA, says since November 2020, the program has gotten books to just under 10,000 pre-k and kindergarten kids in 27 different school systems.

As the name implies, it didn’t start with books. Harrill said it all began fifteen years ago, with tennis.

“I first saw the Quick Start tennis format fifteen years ago, and figured out it was a way to get tennis all over the place for kids who didn’t have the opportunity,” she said. “We did tennis and then healthy eating, and a few years ago, we added literacy.

Similar to Dolly Parton’s “Imagination Library” program, which sends free books to children under the age of five, Harrill says her program takes the baton from there.

“We want the kids to be prepared so when they hit the school room door, they’re ready to learn,” Harrill said.

Before the literacy arm of Quick Start was added, Harrill admits, she did a deep dive into the reading scores in the state of Virginia, and saw children were not reading well by the time they reached third grade. This program aims to change that.

“They’ve been exposed to books, and hopefully that will improve the school readiness scores by the time they get to kindergarten, so their potential is realized when they take that critical third grade reading test.”

Bacon believes though they’re trying to solve the problem in Lunenburg, it’s not unique to this Virginia county.

“It’s a national problem,” she said. “When you look at children’s literacy skills, when they’re assessed throughout the nation, you’re seeing a decline in literacy, and there’s so many reasons for that. Cell phone usage, technology usage, children are less conversational, there’s less time spent reading. We are trying to increase students being exposed to books, and provide opportunities for parents to participate in all of this together.”

The books provided for the rest of the year are as follows: “When the Snow is Deeper than my Boots are Tall” (February), “How to Catch a Snowman” (March), “Mingo the Flamingo” (April), and “Click Clack Goodnight” (May).