Preparing Children for School
As teachers at Middletown Elementary School in Virginia, Pam Coffman and Heather Smelser noticed a gap in learning between children who had attended preschool and those who hadn’t. Whether it was academically, socially or emotionally, there were many students who simply weren’t ready for school when they started kindergarten. Parents who couldn’t afford a traditional preschool had few options that prepared their children for the first day.
Middletown, Virginia, USA
The Lions Step In
Pam and Heather teamed up with the Lions club through Wayne Davis, former Middletown Elementary principal, who was a very active Lions club member. Together, they formed the Children First Lions Club, a specialty club that focused on the educational needs of children during the years before kindergarten. The Lions provided the volunteer and community resources needed to get the Little Lions program started and keep it successful.
The program is free to the community and requires parents to get involved with their children’s early education. Meeting twice a month at the elementary school, Little Lions teaches basic skills such as using scissors, holding pencils, taking turns and rhyming words. By holding the program at the school, children get used to the building, the teachers and the classroom setting, so they are not as overwhelmed on their first day of kindergarten.
Ready to Learn
The Little Lions program started off with just a couple of children and their parents attending. Now, at least 10 children show up per session. When the first day of school comes around, they are confident in the classroom after being familiarized with the people and the environment. “Now, children sit and listen to a whole story,” said Marjorie Davis, Children First Lions Club member. “Parents see a world of difference as far as following directions and listening. And when the children go to school, they are more successful.”
For many children, the peak time to learn is from ages 3 to 5. Without a good foundation or an enjoyment of learning at these ages, they can get lost along the way and become turned off by education. Introducing them to learning before they start school can help them succeed in the classroom for years to come.
Tips and Tools
Make It Happen: Children First in Your Community
Why did the club get involved in this project? »
Teachers wanted a better way to prepare young children for school. With no funding from the county, they partnered with the Lions club for the volunteer and community resources they needed.
How do you raise awareness about the project? »
Fliers are sent home with school-age students and posted around the community.
What kinds of resources does it take to keep the project going? »
Involving parents and the community gets the word out and really helps the children. A specialty Lions club that focuses on children’s needs attracts young members, women and other people who might not be initially interested in the Lions club.
Any words of advice? »
Any Lions club in any community can do this. You don’t have to be a teacher – parents and grandparents can do this. And it makes such a difference. Fill the need wherever you are.
"In a world of service, Lions can help prepare young children for successful school years."
Children First Lions Club member
"Times are hard and it’s wonderful to have something that you can take your child to without the extra expense of other activities."
"Children First and Little Lions are definitely community based. You don’t have to be a teacher to volunteer and to be involved."