Tag Archives: ReadyKids

ReadySteps from ReadyKids, An Important Partner at Friendship Court and Beyond

Piedmont Housing Alliance partners with several area nonprofits to bring enriching support to our client families. ReadyKids is one of those partners, providing services to children who live in Piedmont Housing Alliance supported housing, such as Friendship Court. We asked Shannon Banks, program manager for ReadySteps to share information with us about the program, and what ReadyKids provides the children at Friendship Court.

The ReadySteps Program at ReadyKids
By Shannon Banks, ReadySteps Program Manager

Every Tuesday morning, kids ages zero to five and their parents bounce into the Friendship Court Community Center ready for two hours of fun with the ReadySteps program at ReadyKids. The ReadySteps program takes a family-centered, holistic approach to school readiness, and supports the entire family to be ready for school. We support kids to develop the skills they need to enter school ready to learn, and we empower parents by equipping them with the skills and knowledge to support their child’s growth and development. In addition, we work to connect families to the resources they need to reach their goals, and help them to identify and address concerns.

How does ReadySteps Help Kids?

When our kids aren’t ready with the tools they need to succeed, they fail or fall behind. When our parents aren’t ready with the tools they need to succeed, it is much more difficult for them to support their children. We know that kids who participate in high quality early childhood education programs enter school better prepared and are more successful than their peers who have not had those opportunities. We know that having a primary caregiver with whom they have a strong, positive and nurturing relationship is critical to kids’ optimal growth and development. And we also know that when caregivers are supported to understand how their child is growing and developing, build relationships with neighbors, and are able to access to community resources, they are better equipped to make choices and decisions that help propel their kids to success.

What happens during a ReadySteps Playgroup?

Through play kids learn about how the world and its people work. Jen Fenerty (Group Leader), Margot Pleasants (Educator), and Laura Somel (Family Coordinator), design and facilitate activities aimed at supporting child and adult growth in all areas of their life. Circle time offers the opportunity to come together and work as a group, and to practice taking turns and following directions. Stations with different educational activities allow kids the opportunity to make a choice, and decide what they want to do and how they want to do it, within the established limits and boundaries of playgroup.  They also provide parents the opportunity to follow their child’s lead, and become engrossed in play. Activities such as these, and many more, provide the foundation for learning basic math and literacy skills, such as counting and letter recognition.

How does ReadySteps Help Parents?

Our parent support and education activities give parents the opportunity to shine as the expert on their kids, learn new skills, and give feedback on the program. We collaborate with other programs and agencies including the Healthy Families Program, Women’s Initiative, PB&J Fund, Infant and Toddler Connection of the Blue Ridge, Charlottesville City Schools, and CHiP to provide information and services to empower parents. We also host a monthly Parent Advisory Committee, complete developmental screenings, and share helpful parenting information and ways to extend the playgroup learning experience at home. Kids do not come with an instruction manual, and everyone needs someone to support and encourage them.  ReadySteps works to do just that.

How do I get involved?

The ReadySteps program is free, and all parents or caregivers and their kids ages birth to age 5 years are welcome to join us. Our next playgroup is Tuesday, April 10 at 10:00 a.m.!

Piedmont Housing Alliance Leads Bus Tour to Early Childhood Education Centers

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Alex Ikefuna, Charlottesville Neighborhood Development Services; Gail Esterman, ReadyKids; Ron Enders, PHA board member; Frank Grosch, PHA CEO; Ramona Chapman, PHA board member; Cathy Train, United Way; Sheri Hopper, PHA Advisory Committee member; Stephanie Massie, ReadyKids; Claudette Grant, PHA Community Organizer at Friendship Court; Myrtle Houchens, PHA Advisory Committee member; Erika Viccellio, United Way; Beth Kennan, PHA Project Manager; Sarah McLean, PHA Advisory Committee member; and Karen Reifenberger, PHA COO

On Tuesday, September 20, Piedmont Housing Alliance led a bus tour to explore exceptional early childhood education centers in both Norfolk and Richmond. The tour included Piedmont Housing staff, several board members, Friendship Court Advisory Committee members, and community representatives from the United Way, ReadyKids and the City of Charlottesville.

The group toured two schools: The New E3 School in Norfolk, and the Weinstein JCC in Richmond.   The schools were selected because they represent two ends of a spectrum in early childhood education philosophy. The New E3 School is based on a curriculum developed by the University of Virginia’s Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning. The Weinstein JCC program is based around the Reggio Emilia philosophy of education.

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The purpose of the trip is to gain information about early childhood centers that have successfully attracted a mixed income population, with an eye toward the creation of an early childhood center at Friendship Court, as an element of that community’s redevelopment, beginning in 2019.

While on the tour, participants were able to visit classrooms and play areas, talk with staff, learn about school philosophies and visions, as well as methods of operations. Key learnings from the operations help inform how multiple levels of income and tuition can be accommodated and attract a truly diverse population.

The team will compile their findings and continue the discussion with area early childhood education stakeholders, as plans for Friendship Court continue to evolve.

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