Merced County Times Newspaper
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Incoming AESD kindergarten students to receive ‘literacy bags’


During the month of February, the Atwater Elementary School District will hold its annual Round Up for incoming Transitional Kindergarten and Kindergarten students, and each student at each of the schools will receive a school readiness “literacy bag,” as well as instructions on how to use it!

The gesture is very important from an educational standpoint, so the literacy bags have been prepared and are waiting at the District Office to be disbursed.

Carrie O’Bara, a Transitional Kindergarten teacher at Peggy Heller School, told the Times, “All school districts do a Round Up every year to assess how many incoming TK’s and kindergarteners they’re going to get for the next school year.  “Ever since Peggy Heller opened, we’ve given these incoming students a literacy bag to get them excited about school as a school readiness type of thing.

“We thought every school did it, but we came to find out some schools weren’t putting together any literacy bags.

“So during the last several years, I put together a presentation to the school district and the Atwater Educational Enrichment Foundation, and they agreed that it was a good idea for every child to get a bag.  It’s not inexpensive, but we think it’s a really powerful way of making a positive connection between the district and our youngest incoming learners and their families.

“This year, we put together 450 bags for the school district.  Retired teachers helped.  Some of the teachers at Peggy Heller helped, as well as teachers from other schools, and our Peggy Heller Leadership Team was involved.

“There was some prep work first, such as creating journals and putting papers in the bags.

“When those things were done, we spread everything out and assembled the bags.

“The Atwater Educational Enrichment Foundation, Atwater Rotary Club and the school district helped fund everything that went into the bags, as well as the bags themselves.”

What is in a literacy bag?

O’Bara told the Times, “At Round Up, the teachers do quick assessments to get a feel for where the kids are at, and they check records to see the kids’ birth dates and do the general registration.

“When the parents receive the literacy bag, there are a lot of fundamental concepts that parents can get their child interested in.

“We put in a journal and a little box of crayons, and we encourage the parents to have their kids draw and color to help them with their fine motor skills.

“We put in a little book, and we show the parents how to do some simple concepts of print things with their child, as well as read the story and talk to the child about the story.

“We give them a little bag of different colored shapes so they can talk about the colors, the shapes’ names, and they can make patterns, and they can talk about straight sides versus curved sides.

“We also give them Play Doh and talk to the parents how squeezing the Play Doh and doing different activities with it helps develop the muscles in their children’s hands and their dexterity. The parents can reinforce the first letter of the child’s name, can ask them to make a straight line and a curved line with the Play Doh.  We show them how to continually reinforce these concepts.

“We give them papers in a page protector and a dry erase crayon and a cotton ball. The children can trace a letter with the dry erase crayon.  It has some pull or resistance when the child is using it so they can feel it more when they’re making that letter and retain the knowledge.  The cotton ball is used to wipe it off.

The Benefits of literacy bags

O’Bara said, “I see a lot of excitement when I talk with the parents and give the kids the bags. The kids want to hold the bags and everyone is smiling, and it makes that first connection powerful and positive for them.

“The biggest impact is made when taking the time to show the parents how to use the materials. Just letting the kids play with the bags would not give them the same educational foundation.

“I think everyone involved really recognizes it helps kids start off on the right path.

“We feel these things really help children get excited about the process of learning.  Round Up is one of the first connections you have with families as a formal school district, and it’s nice to make it a positive interaction, and to show families we recognize it’s a partnership and together we can make school and learning a positive experience and successful for their child.

“It makes it worthwhile to see the pride on the children’s faces when they get to take home their little bag.”

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