The literacy-based program kicks off in mid-October
Imagine you're 5 again, stepping off the school bus into the foreign land of elementary school.
The first day of kindergarten is often intimidating, but Little Steps, a literacy-based program for 3- and 4-year-olds in the Oregon Trail School District, helps ease the transition.
Little Steps kicks off its 2011-12 program in mid-October, giving child participants the opportunity to visit their future grade school, principal and teacher four times throughout the year.
Interested families should sign up soon to reserve a spot, as they fill up quickly.
To participate, children must have turned 3 by Aug. 31. The program is free and offered at four Title I grade schools: Welches, Sandy Grade, Firwood and Naas.
Little Steps began preparing children for kindergarten in 1999, with an emphasis on literacy.
For children already in preschool, the program enhances their curriculum, and for children not in preschool, the program offers exposure to a classroom setting.
At each of the four evening meetings throughout the school year, the children participate in a story time and activities with their future teachers.
Afterward, parents and children rotate through literacy activities that reinforce pre-reading skills. The end of the evening features a snack time, and children go home with a copy of the story time book.
During the programs, teachers offer tips of what parents can do at home to prepare their children for the next step.
Parents are encouraged to teach their children how to write their name with a capital letter and to retell a story from just seeing the pictures in a book.
At the school year's end, Little Steps offers a full tour of the school, with visits to the music room, gym, library and computer lab.
'They get excited when they hear they will be able to check out books from the school library or visit the computer lab and learn about keyboarding,' said Becky Fortune, program coordinator.
'For those children with older siblings already in school, it is a connection that makes them feel like a part of their brother or sister's school experience.'
Fortune said another benefit of Little Steps is the networking opportunity for parents, especially those who have recently moved to the area.
Ginny Thompson, whose children Gracelyn and Josiah have participated in Little Steps, said the program helped her kids to flourish and get fueled up for kindergarten.
Neither attended a traditional preschool, so learning how to prepare them at home was helpful.
Michell Wasson-Messer said knowing public schools' expectations for her daughter, Maddy, has been helpful.
According to kindergarten teachers in the district, Little Steps makes a huge difference in the transition, and parents are more likely to volunteer when their children start kindergarten.
About 120 families participate in Little Steps each year, with 30 at each school.
All of Little Steps' information is published in English and Spanish, and the program offers Spanish translators.
For more information and to register, visit or call the secretary at your child's school.
To reach Becky Fortune, program coordinator, call Welches Elementary School at 503-622-3165.