The Times West Virginian

October 22, 2013

Head Start programs aim to boost children’s literacy

By Kaylyn Christopher
Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT — Literacy skills are the foundation of education, and that’s why Head Start programs across the nation are making it their goal to expose children to reading before they reach kindergarten.

“Head Start has a very strong literacy base,” Wendy Wells, a teacher at Edgemont Head Start in Fairmont, said.

Twenty-one years ago today, President Ronald Reagan proclaimed October as Head Start Awareness Month to recognize the program that helps 3- to 5-year-olds prepare to enter elementary schools.

“We try to cover everything from potty training if they need it to prekindergarten skills,” Wells said.

Through a collaboration with the Marion County Public Library, Wells said Edgemont Head Start creates several opportunities for the students to enhance their reading and listening skills.

On Monday, students enjoyed story time with Christian Cox, Marion County Public Library’s youth services librarian.

“Christian’s very good with these kids,” Wells said.

According to Cox, the sooner students start reading, the better.

“The earlier they are exposed to literature and books, the more inclined they are going to be to read them on their own,” Cox said.

Two Edgemont Head Start students, Judah and Emma, both said they look forward to story time every month.

In addition to his monthly visits to Head Start, Cox said he visits other schools in the county periodically.

“It’s easier for me to do more outreach this way because I can get to them easier than they can come see me at the library,” he said.

Wells said Head Start regularly brings in individuals like Cox to talk to the students.

“We try very hard to involve lots of people from the community,” she said.

In the past, Wells said the students have received visits from the likes of Fairmont State University athletic teams, police officers, firefighters and bus drivers.

“We had our bus driver come in and read to the children so they can see that you have to be able to read to drive the bus — and they think the bus is pretty cool,” Wells said.

In addition to teaching literacy skills, Wells said Head Start focuses on things like social development.

“That’s really why Head Start was started — to get children to be able to get along with others,” Wells said. “We want the children to be very well rounded.”

Email Kaylyn Christopher at kchristopher@timeswv.com or follow her on Twitter @KChristopherTWV.