The READY School Program Initiative

(Realizing the Education and Development of our Young)

An Early Learning and Family Engagement Initiative

The READY School Initiative is a free, half-day, socialization, play and learn early learning program serving low- income children, ages 3-5, and their families in specialized, on-site satellite classroom space, such as a local apartment complex.  Transportation is a critical need for families, and having the READY School program in local space allows children access to participate in a quality early learning program.  Children and their families who are not enrolled in a Pre-Kindergarten or Head Start program will be eligible to attend the READY School programs.  Each READY School program location is operated by a local, licensed, quality rated early learning center and follows the same curriculum and outreach programs as the center, allowing the READY School families to tap into all available programs for family sustainability and well-being.

The READY School goal is to identify children not enrolled in an early learning program to ensure that children are healthy, safe, and prepared for success when they enter Pre-Kindergarten.  Children will learn self-help and socialization skills in literacy-rich environments, and age-appropriate screening tools are utilized to help assess each child’s readiness for school.  The READY School programs are currently led by qualified part-time lead teachers who are assisted by two bi-lingual parent aides.  Parents are encouraged to volunteer and participate in the READY School programs, as well as the local early learning center outreach initiatives.  Workshops and activities are designed with the parents to help them make connections, develop life skills, learn about community resources, as well as practices and approaches that will help foster the at-home learning skills children need.

Currently, there are 3 READY Schools providing quality early learning programs located in Norcross, Clarkston, and Stone Mountain Georgia. Additionally, strategic discussions are underway to identify additional READY School locations in several Metro Atlanta areas. CDF works with partners and families to plan, design, and evaluate each new READY School, using an asset-based community development approach.

During the prior school year, the READY School programs served 120 children and their families.  Families participated in workshops on topics such as prevention of child abuse and developing leadership skills.  Families celebrated holidays, went on field trips to the Children’s Museum, and attended literacy events in the community.  As well, families attended sessions centered on Georgia Pre-K and were assisted with enrollment.  Every eligible child successfully transitioned to a quality Georgia Pre-K program.  The Norcross students were able to participate in a Department of Early Care and Learning summer transition program, which provided a wonderful way to transition to their “new school” with their peers.

The READY Schools are a warm and welcoming place; it may be the first time children are away from their families and have interactions with other adults and children, some of whom speak their language and some may not.  The READY School is a place where families can learn about child development, the importance of language and literacy, meet other families, and learn about community resources, such as English as a second language, health awareness, financial literacy, and other activities at local Libraries or Community Centers.  The teachers help the families become more engaged in their child’s early learning and educational path, as well as to help them understand the importance of education, reading, and talking to their children in their home language.

The Clarkston, Stone Mountain and Norcross READY Schools are funded in part by United Way of Greater Atlanta and the W. K. Kellogg Foundation.  CDF Action, a not for profit organization, which serves as the fiscal agent, provides technical assistance and prepares required funding and outcome reports. CDF engages residents and partners to craft innovative culturally sound, community-driven education initiatives, building on community assets. Early Learning Property Management (ELPM) supports the READY School approach by identifying resources and promoting the initiative.  R James Properties provides free or low-cost space for the READY Schools in Clarkston. 

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READY School Success Story

Paul’s mother learned about the READY School, located in the apartment complex where she lives, from a friend.  She knocked on the door of the READY School and was met by a teacher who spoke her language.  The teacher helped her enroll 3 year old Paul — and one year later, the mom is telling others about the READY School!

Paul learned his colors and much more at the READY School.  He met children who spoke English, as well as Burmese and Nepali.  He loved books and liked to help tell the story.  He learned how to follow directions, to use the computer, and to decide which interest area (painting? blocks?) to choose each day.  He and his classmates sang songs in several languages at the annual Clarkston Tell Me a Story! Festival.  Paul is now a student at a Clarkston quality Pre-K program in a child care center located near his home! 

Easter Seals N. Georgia Sylvan Hills Child Development Center addresses Autism

For more than 100 years, Easter Seals has helped children with special needs. These days, the agency has become the largest provider of services for children with autism.

At the Easter Seals Sylvan Hills Child Development Center, in a class of mostly 3 and 4 year-olds, four children are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder or ASD. At first glance, they’re hard to spot and that’s the point. This is an inclusive childcare class.

“We want to ensure that we had a way to include the children on the spectrum,” explained Donna Davidson, President/CEO of Easter Seals North Georgia. “The children get into their own world. They feel more comfortable in their own world and it’s our opportunity to bring them out of their world with the different strategies.”