Parents, community, list kindergarten readiness needs

12/05/2016
By Sue Cody

Early Learning Hub session Astoria is a great place to raise a family – the small-town feel, beautiful environment, community pride and concern for young children are strengths the community can build on.

That’s why the Northwest Early Learning Hub is so critical to the community. And the community is invited to an information-gathering session Thursday, Dec. 8, 6 to 7 p.m., at the Liberty School Library, 1700 Ninth St. in Tillamook. There will be snacks, raffle items and free childcare.

What does the Early Learning Hub do?

The Northwest Early Learning Hub coordinates resources and strategies focused on children and families in Clatsop, Columbia and Tillamook counties. It serves more than 7,200 children from birth to 6 years old across 13 school districts.

The Early Leaning Governance Council – composed of Northwest Education Service District employees, educators and health care professionals – identifies needs and provides vision and guidance to the hub staff.

In the past year, hub programs included:

• Early childhood health and education screening fairs that Kinder Ready began several years ago.

• Kindercamps to help incoming kindergarteners learn school routines, develop reading, writing and math skills and become familiar with their school and staff.

• Preschool Promise, partnering with five preschool programs to add 78 seats for free, high-quality preschool programs in Astoria, St. Helens and Tillamook.

Assessing needs

An information session on Nov. 29, in Astoria, brought together educators, parents, county staff and community members to discuss how to improve kindergarten readiness for children in Clatsop County.

Asked about community partnerships and strengths, participants said Clatsop County is supportive, caring and a great place to raise a family. Participants suggested a focus on:

• Affordable quality childcare

• Affordable quality preschool

• Parenting education programs

• Pediatric dental care

• More activities for preschool children

• Interactive classes for parents, such cooking or infant/toddler massage

• More parental involvement

Since Northwest Parenting is the touch point for training, representative Jill Quackenbush said she is working with Dorothy Spence, Northwest Early Learning Hub director, to see what programs can be developed or expanded.

Dan Gaffney, P-3 (Parent-Public Partnership) coordinator, said that unlike other communities, Clatsop County is supportive. He said collaboration is key to finding creative people to find solutions.

Quackenbush said, “We want to know what works for our community. We want innovative solutions.”

Getting parents involved

One big issue is how to get more parents involved, Spence said. Ideas were floated about parenting classes, home visits, surveys and mom’s clubs. Keeping parents informed of events and resources is a challenge. Word of mouth is the main means of communications with parents, but Spence said multiple tools such as emails, texts, phone calls and flyers should be utilized.

Parents and others can get involved in county advisory councils that meet once a month or every other month, Spence said. They provide feedback and guidance to the Governance Council. For information advisory councils and other means of involvement, contact Elena Barreto at 503-614-1443 or ebarreto@nwesd.k12.or.us.

Community resources

Many other resources outside the hub also foster early childhood education. For example:

• Free library cards: All Clatsop County children, from birth to 18 years old are entitled to a free library card. If a child lives outside the city limits of Astoria, Warrenton or Seaside, they may receive a card at the nearest library. Parents must complete the application for children 17 and younger.

• Astoria Parks and Recreation, including Port of Play, which offers structured play for young children.

• Sunset Empire Park and Recreation Department, including preschool and after school programs.

• Northwest Regional Education Service District: If you have a concern about how your child walks, talks, hears, sees, plays or responds to others, call 503-338-3368 to get a free development assessment.

• Head Start, preschool for children at or below poverty level: Warrenton 503-861-9681; Astoria 503-325-5421; Seaside 503-738-0873.

• Northwest Parenting offers resources and education opportunities for parents, 503-325-8673, ext. 2.

• P-3 program works to align all who touch young children’s lives, including parents, preschools, child care centers, elementary schools, the medical community and social services.

The Way to Wellville and the Columbia Pacific CCO support early childhood education and are working to secure more funding for trauma informed care and universal preschool.