• Amba Brown

An initiative to prepare kids for kindergarten

“About 40 percent of kids aren’t ready for kindergarten, and of those 40 percent, 70 percent will never catch up.”

WINTER HAVEN — A well-known Winter Haven nonprofit is working to let the public know that education begins well before kindergarten.

The Winter Haven Public Education Partnership is an organization of volunteers that seeks to improve education in the community through programs, partnerships, advocacy and engagement. Among the notable strategies is making sure parents have the tools necessary to prepare children for kindergarten.

“When they’re behind, it affects everybody,” said Nat West, who heads the new Winter Haven Kindergarten Ready program. “I saw this as a way to help schools without telling them how to run their schools.”

The committee of volunteers created a website, www.whkindergartenready.org, which is an easy-to-use site that helps parents track where their children need to be academically from a young age. The website shows a checklist, along with resources for helping the children get on grade level before schools starts.

“If we can get these kids started right, I said let’s do it,” West said. “We’ve developed a website with a lot of positive things. We’ve had 400 people who are tuned into our website.”

West said the committee of about 15 people spoke with school administrators across the community about the concerns they had when it came to student performance. Among elementary principals, West said, the overwhelming theme was working to have children prepared to start school.

“About 40 percent of kids aren’t ready for kindergarten, and of those 40 percent, 70 percent will never catch up,” said Peter Verrill, a retired gynecologist and a member of the committee. “That was very eye-opening. Back when I was delivering babies, the saying was that babies didn’t come with directions. This is sort of as close as we could come to directions.”

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