New program to help families teach students to read before kindergarten

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) – A new reading comprehension program is being rolled out to help Kansas families teach their kindergartners how to read before kindergarten.

Waterford.org, a pre-K education nonprofit whose mission is to achieve universal literacy, says new reports from the National Center for Education Statistics have highlighted declining performance in reading among 9-year-olds nationwide.

Examining student performance during the COVID-19 pandemic, NCES found that average reading scores in 2022 for these students fell by about five points — the largest average drop in scores since 1990.

However, Waterford said the good news for Kansas families is that a generous new donation will give them the chance to start literacy understanding early to offset this trend.

Waterford noted that the TED organization donated funds to the nonprofit to bring its research-based, third-party validated Waterford Upstart program to the Sunflower State. He said the program will offer families the choice to prepare their children for kindergarten at home for free.

Waterford said children will learn the basics of reading using the program for 15 minutes a day, five days a week. On average, he said, graduates of the program enter kindergarten at a reading level close to first grade.

Waterford also said the program has a math and science component that families can also benefit from. He said recent research also indicated a decline in math performance.

“When children start school on an equal footing with their peers, they do better in school,” said Waterford.org national spokesperson Kim Fischer.

Made at home and online, Waterford said Upstart provides carers with the tools to become the first and most influential teacher their child will have. He said that these tools include a computer that they can keep after the program ends.

If a home needs internet access, Waterford said it will provide that too. He said all participants will receive support through a coach who offers tips to help them continue to interact with their child offline.

Waterford noted that there is never a financial cost to families for any of these tools and supports due to philanthropic funding from the organization TED.

In the United States, Waterford said about 2.2 million 4-year-olds do not have access to publicly funded preschool education, and more than half of those children come from communities with no options. of preschool education.

Waterford said it was one of eight nonprofits globally honored as a 2019 TED Bold Project. He said the designation tasked him with reaching more children aged 4 years who do not have access to pre-school education.

“There are barriers to early education in Kansas communities. We want to help fill those gaps with this home-based program so children can enter their first day of kindergarten confident and ready to learn,” Fischer said.

Waterford said registration for Upstart is open to children who plan to enter kindergarten in the fall of 2023. He said limited spaces are assigned on a first-come, first-served basis.

To register for the program, click HERE.

Ryan H. Bowman