Highlighting early childhood education


By Sue Cody

P3 Kinder ReadyA 20-year-old study is getting a lot of attention these days, said Clatsop County P3 Coordinator Dan Gaffney. The study of children raised in poverty, middle class and professional households shows a 30-million word gap between the bottom and top tiers. “Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children” reports that development at age 3 affects learning ability in third grade.

The P3 program (Public-Private Partnership) focuses on aligning all who touch children’s lives from birth to 8 years old, Gaffney said. That includes parents, preschools, child care centers, elementary schools, the medical community and social services.

Clatsop County’s P3 is funded by a $75,000 grant from the Oregon Community Foundation. In the middle of year two of the three-year grant period, P3 has created brochures and a booklet to give to children in kindergarten, first, second and third grade.

“If children are not comfortable, competent, fluent readers by the end of third grade, they have a much more challenging life experience that affects everything in later life,” Gaffney said. “That includes employment, not just school.” 

The grant supports professional development, education and activities for children and families. Last year, there were four two-hour Saturday workshops, called Kinder-Ready. P3 partnered with Northwest Parenting to hold the workshops. Each family was given a plastic tablecloth and a shopping bag containing inexpensive materials, such as a newspaper and flash cards. The parents and children were asked to sit on the tablecloth and talk about the items.

“It is important for parents to interact with their children, to enhance the child’s development, Gaffney said. “The brain is pretty much developed by age 5.
“If kids start behind in kindergarten, the effects of interventions are much more challenging and costly. If we avoid the need for intervention, we can provide a richer experience for all kids in all grades.” 


There are inherent challenges in getting kindergartners ready, Gaffney said. What is expected of kindergartners now is what was previously taught in first and second grades. Clatsop County deals with five school districts and each district works a little differently. 

A big push in the schools is moving to Common Core State Standards, Gaffney said. “It’s much more challenging now to get kids where they need to be by kindergarten, not just academically, but socially.”

Looking forward

There are now 20 people trained for the Early Childhood workshops. Gaffney said he would like to see a series of free workshops from March through June. If kindergarten registration moves from April to earlier in the year, there is more time for interaction and preparation, he said.

P3 plans to observe the preschools and kindergartens in the five county school districts. Kindergarten teachers will get together and create tips for parents, such as the need for activity, rest, healthy food and books. These tips could be distributed through the schools.

“When you look at … preschools, parents are involved,” Gaffney said. “But when kids enter kindergarten and school, parents become less involved. In reality, we need parents to stay involved [on an ongoing basis] in their children’s education.”

For more information on strengthening childhood development, please visit http://bit.ly/W2WHeckman.