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Idaho Reading Indicator

Jayden Hayes, 5, poses for a portrait in August 2017 at the Twin Falls Public Library in Twin Falls.

TWIN FALLS — The Twin Falls Public Library is starting a new program in January to help prepare children for kindergarten.

“Ready, Set, Kindergarten!” is open to children who are entering kindergarten in the fall of 2019. There’s no cost to participate and families don’t need to have a library card. No sign-ups are required.

There are excellent private preschools in Twin Falls, said Kasi Allen, youth services librarian at the Twin Falls Public Library, but the library’s program aims to bridge the gap when a family can’t afford to send their child to preschool.

“We’re not trying to replace preschool,” Allen said. “This is more of a stop gap for those kids who aren’t able to get into those preschools.”

The Twin Falls Public Library’s program kicks off the second week of January with two sessions to choose from: 10:30 a.m. Wednesdays or 6 p.m. Thursdays. Each weekly session will last about 45 minutes to an hour. The program will most likely run through late May.

During each weekly session, children will learn a new letter, a kindergarten readiness concept, work on numbers, participate in hands-on activities, and parents will receive a worksheet to take home with suggestions of activities to do with their children. For Thursday night sessions, dinner will be provided for families.

Idaho is among only five U.S. states that don’t have publicly funded preschool. School districts often provide preschool for children who have disabilities, but not for all students.

There are some exceptions, such as the Murtaugh School District, which offers preschool for all of its 4-year-olds. The College of Southern Idaho’s Head Start program offers preschool for families living in poverty, but there’s a waiting list.

The price tag of a private preschool education is out of reach for some families. Advocates say the lack of state-funded preschool is holding children back. But opponents say it’s the responsibility of parents, not the government, to prepare children for school.

Teresa Jones, elementary programs director for the Twin Falls School District, wasn’t available to comment on the library’s new program.

In the world of children’s library services, “there’s a lot of talk — especially in Idaho — that there’s no public preschool,” Allen said.

It’s also hard for parents to know how to prepare their children for kindergarten, she said, and figure out what kindergarten standards are. And Idaho children aren’t even required to attend kindergarten at all.

Allen looked at kindergarten standards from high-performing school districts nationwide to come up with materials for the library’s new program.

Library officials hope families will come regularly to the weekly sessions and children will gain skills to help them transition more successfully into kindergarten this fall.

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