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Nearly 70% of Yakima County kids not ready for kindergarten

Nearly 70% of Yakima County kids not ready for kindergarten

WEST VALLEY, Wash. -- Katie Horton is a Kindergarten teacher at Ahtanum Valley Elementary School. She says its pretty easy to tell which of her students went to preschool and which didn’t, based on things like math and reading.

Experts say only about 25 percent of preschool-aged children are actually in preschool in Yakima County.

Assistant Superintendent Peter Finch says a lot of parents might forgo preschool because of the cost and lack of transportation, and he says there's also a common misconception.

"A lot of times you think, 'Oh, well kindergarten, that’s where you start,' but the brain develops so much before kindergarten and there's so much learning that happens in early learning before kindergarten," said Finch.

The West Valley School District says to better prepare kids for kindergarten, they offer something to kids in the district that no one else on the eastern side of the mountains does.

It's the Parent-Child Home Program, and kids who are between 18 months and 3-years-old can participate. Educators visit these kids' homes twice a week and teach parents how to teach their kids to be ready for early education. They touch on things like shapes, numbers, letters, and colors.

"They can teach their children the alphabet. They can take part and they don't have to wait until the child’s in preschool or kindergarten to do that, so we wanna encourage parents to advocate for their kids and educate them," said Program Coordinator Leanne Morse.

The Parent-Child Home Program is free. Depending on the kid's age when they're done, the school district says the child should be academically and emotionally ready to enter preschool or kindergarten.

To even better prepare kids to be ready, kindergarten teacher Katie Horton says there's lots of simple things parents can do.

"They could be counting things at the grocery store. They could be finding colors and shapes in the grocery store. You can go on a walk and count how many steps you're taking," she said.

Experts say only 30 percent of kids in Yakima County are kindergarten ready, compared to Washington State at 46 percent. But West Valley says because of their early childhood education programs, 51 percent of their kids enter kindergarten prepared, based on things like math, reading, and social emotional readiness.

For more information on the Parent-Child Home Program, call (509) 823-2055. They're currently adding more kids for their October 8 start date.

For more information on preschool in West Valley and to see if you qualify for tuition assistance, click here.

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