BRISTOL – Is your child ready for kindergarten? The School Readiness Council and the Bristol Early Childhood Alliance want to help parents make sure he or she is, with the Ready4K app.
Parents who sign up for the Ready4K receive a free series of text messages with facts and tips on ways to help young children learn and grow.
“Parents open texts,” said Donna Osuch, co-chair of the School Readiness Council and co-chair of the council’s Transition to Kindergarten Committee. “They don’t necessarily follow emails, and if we give them an information packet they might say ‘wow this is great’ but never really look at it. So this text-based app we believe will give us a better ability to get information to parents; it’s little nuggets sent out to them every week.”
The texts can be in English or Spanish, she said.
It can also be used to send parents information about community programs that could benefit them, such as the Farmers to Families food distribution or programs at Imagine Nation, said Mary-Alice Petrucelli-Timek, the city’s school readiness grant manager.
“We’re trying to make it a one stop shop to reach out to all these parents,” Petrucelli-Timek said. “We’re still reaching out to parents to get them to sign up. I think right now we have about 360 parents signed up.”
That totals around 400 children so far, Osuch said.
“The goal is to have a new way to reach parents whose children are not in preschools for a variety of reasons right now,” Osuch said. “We had seen a significant decline of children in preschool because of the pandemic and preschools had the inability to take in as many people as well. The families who most need this program are the ones who are isolated, for whatever reason.”
We know there a lot more children out there, Petrucelli-Timek said.
“Right now we’re connected to children that are in child care center based programs, and not all the center based programs have submitted the information of their parents and children for us to add them in,” she said. “We’re also asking people to sign up at the library; we reached out to the Family Resource Centers at the schools, we reached out to Bristol Hospital Parent and Child Center. We also want people in the community to reach out to me and we will sign them up. We want all 3, 4 and 5 year olds in Bristol to have access to this, we just need to know where they are and who they are. The only qualification is they have to be Bristol residents,” she said, adding parents who want to sign up can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The texts are a good way to get information to people who don’t necessarily have home computers or internet access. They only need to have a phone that can receive texts, she said. “We need their name, address, the child’s date of birth, their phone number, but if they have an email address then it becomes easier for me to reach out to them.”
Ready4K also includes a component called Trauma-Informed, because so many families and children have experienced some level of trauma, she said.
“Nearly half of the children in the United States have experienced at least one adverse childhood experience (ACE),” according to the Ready4K website. “When unaddressed these potentially traumatic experiences can result in both immediate and lifelong negative impacts. ACEs can include such things as witnessing or being a victim of violence, incarceration of a loved one, homelessness, divorce, or a parent’s addiction.”
The Trauma-Informed curriculum is designed to strengthen five characteristics that can mitigate the risks and effects of trauma: parental resilience, social connections, knowledge of parenting and child development, concrete support in times of need and children’s social and emotional competency.
“We just want people in Bristol to know that there are a lot of people working very hard for them and their families, especially during this pandemic,” Petrucelli-Timek said.
Susan Corica can be reached at 860-973-1802 or email@example.com.