In Providence, R.I., educators, parents and community leaders have long understood that the city’s children would benefit from high-quality universal pre-k.
However, the community only has limited resources for serving all three- and four-year olds, so to get to the goal of UPK, the city has to take smaller, creative steps and engage in innovative thinking. Kids Bridge is one example.
“The vision is universal pre-school,” Terri Adelman told the Providence Journal. Adelman is the executive director of Inspiring Minds, the nonprofit program that runs Kids Bridge along with the Providence schools. Unfortunately, there are only enough seats for one-third of the children who are eligible for free preschool programs. That’s why supplemental programs such as Kids Bridge are important.
Before they get to kindergarten, children enroll in Kids Bridge during the summer.The four-week program runs in five schools, and it “empowers children with little or no pre-school experience to rapidly catch up academically and socially,” according to the Kids Bridge website.
So on the first day of kindergarten, Kids Bridge children have the abilities they need to thrive. Participation is especially important for children who haven’t had prior access to high-quality pre-k programs at ages three and four. This year, 180 young children in gained valuable exposure to school environments and early learning routines.
A certified teacher and groups of volunteers work with students. The program costs $500 per child. Providence’s school department pays 80 percent of this, and Inspiring Minds covers the rest. There is no fee for families, but they do have to provide their own transportation.
The program offers literacy and math instruction as well as opportunities to build social and emotional skills.
And according to the Journal, “For the first time this year, Inspiring Minds is offering an extended day program for children that offers academic enrichment in the morning and fun activities in the afternoon, offered by the Boys & Girls Club, the YMCA, the Providence Community Library and the Providence Children’s Museum. The program is being piloted at the Messer Elementary School on Westminster Street.”
One exciting outcome is seeing children who arrive in kindergarten “ready to learn”, with an understanding of classroom routines, the ability to work and play with others, and enthusiasm for the kindergarten year. Adelman discusses this further in a video about the program.
Regina Richards, a kindergarten teacher, reports that in addition to academics, the children develop socially. “Being empathetic to one another, learning to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ to one another, being polite to one another, some children don’t know that and we’re teaching that in the program as well,” Richards told the Hummel Report, a local news outlet.
Children in Providence should have access to universal preschool. But until they do, kindergarten-readiness programs like Kids Bridge can help them develop some of the skills they need to do well in school and in life.