Henrietta Zalkind: Summer Learning Abounds

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Summer is here and the Down East Partnership for Children is hard at work developing our new Strategic Plan to guide the next five years of our mission to launch every child in Nash and Edgecombe counties as a healthy, life-long learner by the end of the third grade.

Regardless of where school district lines ultimately end up, staying focused on the four building blocks of early learning and literacy is essential to the educational and economic success of our two counties. In May, the Partnership’s board approved new long-term goals matching these building blocks to guide progress forward: Health and development are on track beginning before birth. Families are engaged and communities are coordinated. Early care and education are high quality. Teaching and learning environments for K-3 students are effective inside and out, 365 days a year. We are currently working on new community-wide data points measuring these goals and are on track to have the new strategic plan approved at our November Board meeting.

In the meantime, we had a fabulously fun and successful Week of the Young Child where we launched our local Campaign for Grade Level Reading. The campaign is a collaborative effort by funders, nonprofits, government agencies, business leaders, states and communities across the nation to ensure that more low-income children succeed in school and graduate prepared for college, a career and active citizenship. The campaign has three primary pillars: School Readiness, School Attendance and Summer Learning. So, since summer is here, let’s have fun, but let’s make sure that the kids in our community keep learning!

Thankfully, there are lots of summer learning opportunities in our two counties and many of them are free. Below are just a few of the options available and hopefully enough to get you thinking about how to support summer learning in your family. Please take a moment to check them out and share with your friends.

Summer Free Play Fridays at DEPC’s Discovery Park. Come play and learn every Friday from 9 to 10:30 a.m. starting June 24 through July 29 for children up to 5 years old, school-aged siblings are always welcome. Contact Pattie Davis at 985-4300 or email at pdavis@depc.org. Registration is required.

Visit newly updated elementary school parks. Remember these outdoor learning environments are open to the community when school’s not in session. So take your kids, your friends from church, from All Pro Dads, from your neighborhood and go outside and enjoy these new community resources. Go early to avoid the heat and remember to use sun screen and drink plenty of water. Many thanks to Kate B. Reynolds for the funding to make this project a reality. If you would like to take a virtual tour of one of the parks before you go, visit DEPC’s web site: www.depc.org. The schools are Baskerville Elementary, Coker-Wimberly Elementary, G.W. Bulluck Elementary, G.W. Carver Elementary and Williford Elementary.

Check out Braswell Memorial Library and Edgecombe County Memorial Library for summer reading programs, events and story times. Both of the libraries have wonderful things planned for kids of all ages. See their websites for more details. Peacemakers Freedom School, Word Tabernacle’s Impact Center, Rocky Mount Parks and Recreation, Boys and Girls Clubs and the YMCA are also geared up for summer learning, as well as many child care providers that offer special summer camp programs. Last, but not least, don’t forget to check out the many vacation Bible schools being held at a church near you.

Finally, we all know that healthy eating is tied to successful learning and that’s true in summer too. Healthy eating is hard all year long, but can be especially challenging during the summer when school breakfast and lunch isn’t happening. However, the Partnership, the schools, area churches and organizations have worked hard to expand the summer reading and feeding network so that free and nutritious meals are available for children 18 years and younger at many more locations throughout the community! For a site need you, please go to DEPC’s website or www.fns.usda.gov/summerfoodrocks.

Remember, you can always reach DEPC’s Family First Counselors at 985-4300 if you need help to match your summer learning needs with community resources. Summer learning loss is real, so let’s work hard this summer to avoid it and to have fun at the same time.