A new Waco-McLennan County Library program is giving prekindergarten kids a jump start on literacy and giving their parents ways to help them learn.

The Parent Playgroup programs at South Waco Library started this September, introducing basic literacy concepts to children in the company of their parents. Each class covers a simple concept that the instructor demonstrates by reading a storybook to the kids while parents look on. Sessions are structured to give kids time to play and parents time to socialize.

“The truth is a lot of early literacy is very, very simple,” Community Services Supervisor Jessica Emmett said to one group of parents during a class. “A lot of it is something you can incorporate into your everyday life. With vocabulary, an easy thing to do is replace a common word with a word that we might use, but they might not.”

Classes are held at 10:30 a.m. on Thursdays.

Children’s Librarian Kelsie Wade said the library had received requests from parents for early literacy and kindergarten readiness courses.

“The schools are very interested in making sure that the kids in the community are ready to enter kindergarten,” Wade said. “We started this with the hope of helping parents at home and in their everyday life, to be able to look at literacy without having to freak out about teaching their kids all of these big concepts.”

Most of the children are about 2 years old, and the classes focus on teaching parents how to use storybooks to teach broad concepts. One class focused on using background knowledge to teach children new words and illustrations in a book with their real-world counterparts. Another focused on vocabulary.

“It’s stuff that we do without really thinking about it, a lot of the time, but it does highlight that this stuff helps with early literacy,” Wade said.

Emmett said La Vega Independent School District educators visited to observe one of the September classes.

“We’ve been in touch with the schools to kind of find out what they test on when they talk about kindergarten readiness,” Emmett said. “What are the actual skills that they would be looking for, so we want to make sure our library programs are supporting that so it helps the kids meet those benchmarks whenever they get into school.”

Kids start out by free-reading with their families, then move into a lesson followed by playtime.

The participating families include some who are new to the Waco area, Emmett said.

“I think moving to a small town, no matter who you are, is kind of scary, but especially if you have small children” Emmett said. “Coming to the library is a great way to get them involved in things, and you do meet new people.”

Rhegan Hyypio Nuñez, who attended class for the first time with her 1-year-old daughter, moved to Waco with her family this summer. She said as a parent, she tried to be proactive about reaching out and making friends. She got zoo passes, joined a local church and began taking her daughter to library classes.

“Community is very important to me and I’m fairly extroverted, so I knew to feel as good here as possible I would have to start meeting people and learning about different resources for my daughter,” Nuñez said.

She said while other programs do provide the off chance of meeting other parents, the focus is usually on the kids.

“So this is nice, you’re able to talk to the other parents and find that support,” she said.

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