The countdown to kindergarten has begun, with the Gadsden County School District and the Gadsden Interchange partnering to offer a four-week summer reading program dubbed “Wee Read Gadsden” for preschoolers starting kindergarten next year.
The program, July 2-26, introduces students to basic skills like reading, writing and math. Program specialist Cynthia Riley-Hayes said all Wee Read participants develop a love for reading. Each Wee Read student will receive a free book every week to help build a home library.
At an orientation for parents of Wee Read participants, former Gadsden County school board member Judge Helms emphasized the importance of reading for young children.
“Once you learn to read and comprehend what you’re reading, you’ve got education kicked,” Helms said.
Stewart Parsons, Gadsden Interchange chair, said learning before entering school through programs like Wee Read is crucial.
“Wee Read Gadsden is a recognition that many children enter the public schools in Gadsden County with inadequate reading and communication skills,” Parsons said. “Many have not had books in the home, nor have they been exposed to reading. This deficit follows them as they move ahead into the upper grades, and negatively affects their performance and the performance of our schools. Wee Read Gadsden hopes to positively impact this situation.”
Parsons added Wee Read’s first week was “very successful.”
“The kids were a joy to work with. Some of the children did not know their numbers, letters, colors or how to recognize their name when they started — showing how valuable this program is in preparing students for kindergarten,” Parsons said.
Gary Williams, parent of a Wee Read program participant, said he expects the program to strengthen his son’s reading ability and to provide new avenues for learning before he enters kindergarten.
Gadsden County School Superintendent Roger Milton said it’s crucial that all parents build a relationship with the teachers and administrators in the Wee Read program and in the upcoming school year to ensure their children are reaching their daily, weekly and/or semester goals throughout the year. He added Wee Read provides a great opportunity to begin practicing perfect attendance, as well.
Alongside academics, Wee Read students will engage in small group activities, conduct science experiments, make arts-and-crafts and more. They’ll also be exposed to the arts via trips to the Gadsden Arts Center and Museum, as well as dance lessons by Rasheen Jamison-Richardson, founder of the Legacy School of Performing Arts in Quincy.
Wee Read isn’t all “serious business,” however. Students enjoy fun weekly visits to the Splash Pad, a Tallahassee water park.
Wee Read Gadsden is a partnership between the Gadsden Interchange, the Gadsden County School District, the Gadsden County Public Library and the Gadsden County Chamber of Commerce. The Gadsden Interchange is a community group organized in the fall of 2015. It has 35 members from around the county who reflect local racial and gender diversity.
Wee Read Gadsden is supported in part by a grant from the Richard Munroe Foundation in Atlanta. The grant allowed for the purchase of more than 1,500 books designed for preschool children. The books are being distributed free-of-charge to families throughout the county
For more information, call Gadsden Interchange Chair Stewart Parsons at (850) 663-4134. To volunteer for Wee Read, call the Rev. Charles Flowers at (850) 627-3575.
Editor’s note: the preceding story was written by student reporters Kendi Brown-Byrd and Jade Franklin, rising seniors at Gadsden County High School. Brown-Byrd and Franklin are part of a school-sponsored journalism program supervised by Dierra Milton, library/media specialist at Havana Magnet School. Herald reporter Randall Lieberman contributed to this report.
By Kendi Brown-Byrd & Jade Franklin